Early childhood care and education: why a strong foundation is important
When building a new house, you must first make sure that you are installing your house on a concrete foundation with the best soil conditions. You will then be able to observe the different phases of your home as they are completed to create your final home. Just like building a new house requires a solid, concrete foundation to keep it firmly planted; children also need a solid foundation for childhood, as it is a critical time in their lives. Childhood is a time when children begin to develop new skills and interests and begin to stretch their wings. In this article, you’ll learn why early childhood care and education, also known as ECCE, is important, and why you should pursue it for your toddlers.
It’s not just academics
A lot of people think of early childhood education as just learning the alphabet and numbers, but it’s so much broader than that. Children don’t just learn basic skills during this time; they acquire skills including:
- Social abilities: they can play with other children and form social relationships
- Emotional skills: they begin to recognize their feelings and emotions, which allows them to communicate and improve their problem-solving skills for the future
- Cognitive skills: they are exposed to academics and acquire phonological and cognitive skills
Children begin to interact with teachers and children their age, developing skills they would never have developed had they stayed home instead of starting their educational journey. According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), early childhood education and care is not just preparation for primary school, but rather a holistic development of an infant’s cognitive, social, physical and emotional needs. This holistic development aims to build a solid foundation for the rest of their lives, to form future responsible, educated and caring citizens.
When children meet their teachers every day, they begin to feel comfortable and build a bond of trust with them. When they begin to trust the people around them, it eases the learning process and helps teachers complement parenting efforts, especially if they are working parents. That is why teachers need to know all of their students’ interests, put them at ease, pay attention to them and encourage them so that they learn much faster. Teachers can have a lasting impact on children’s lives, we probably all remember our kindergarten and elementary school teachers who showered us with love and care. Remember that the teacher’s role in childcare is not enough, parents must also remain involved and teachers must work closely with them. Dr Jessica Alvarado, Academic Director of the BA in Early Childhood Development at National University, says that when there is a partnership between families and teachers, it can greatly influence the child’s life and make the process considerably more successful learning.
The child’s brain
Children’s brains develop more than any other stage in their life during the first 5 years of life. About 90% of brain growth occurs before the age of 3 and then it is fully developed by the time they are in kindergarten. This is why it is essential to take advantage of this stage through early childhood care and education. Children depend on their families and their first teachers during these years of their lives to nurture them and help them develop the right skills and meet the world. Caregivers can support health brain growth by providing children with a safe environment with a plethora of opportunities to learn, explore and play. Children learn best when their interests are raised, which is why teachers and professionals teach children by exposing them to songs, books and stories that can develop their language skills and help them gain knowledge. So, early childhood education can certainly improve children’s brain development and prepare them for school.
Many parents experience problems when their children do not speak until they are three years old. They then begin to take them to specialists, embarking on a roller coaster of speech therapy and lengthy antibiotic treatments. ECCE can help parents avoid this problem because children will be aware of their surroundings very early on, the vocabulary of the child depends on how often they communicate with people and how adults talk to them. Children who don’t get an early education are treated like babies until they have a school assessment and still fail to form coherent words or sentences.
Early childhood care and education is a difficult experience for parents and their children. This is when children first leave their nest and begin to learn from people other than their parents. Although difficult, ECCE is of the utmost importance because it is the start of their educational journey and will allow them to grow, develop and gain confidence in their skills and those around them.