What Is Early Childhood Education?
The primary years of a child can serve as the most important time of his/her life. This is the time that children significantly grow and progress in terms of their physical development, cognitive development, language skills, and social and emotional development. This is also the time they begin to learn the basics of the 7 essential skills in life which are Focus and Self Control:
- Perspective Taking
- Making Connections
- Critical Thinking
- Taking on Challenges
- Engaged Learning
This makes it important for us to ask the question “What is early childhood education?” Discovering what kind of learning experiences we should be providing our children with is essential in helping them grow into well-rounded human beings.
Early Childhood Education: An Overview
What is early childhood education? According to UNESCO, early childhood care and education refer to the time of remarkable growth and brain development as its peak that occurs during the primary years of a human being, which is from birth to 8 years old.
Early childhood education goes beyond preparation for primary school, as its objective is the holistic development of a child’s physical, cognitive, social, and emotional needs. This serves as a solid foundation for lifelong learning and is an avenue for each child to unlock their potential in being caring, capable, and responsible adults.
The Importance of Early Childhood Education
There are many significant effects from early experiences that can be seen in teenagers, and young adults even. Early childhood education programs help individuals develop holistically. Here are some examples of the importance of early childhood education across the developmental domains:
Physical activities help your child develop their gross motor skills, which include their traveling skills, balancing skills, and gross manipulative skills, to name a few. Fine motor activities that involve the use of wrist and finger movement also serve as a foundation for writing in the future. It helps them explore the things that they can do with their bodies while helping them build a healthier body consisting of strong bones and muscles.
Numerous studies show that quality early childhood education and experiences lead to increased cognitive development. This is because the primary years, specifically from birth to 5, are considered to be a critical period for the development of thinking, behavior, and emotional well-being. It is during these years that children develop cognitive, linguistic, social, emotional, and regulatory skills that later affect the growth and function of other domains.
Social and Emotional Development
During their primary years, children acquire social and emotional skills that they will be carrying all throughout their lives. Some of these skills include regulating emotions, sharing with others, taking turns, and following instructions to name a few. Young children learn to express and regulate emotions, build and sustain relationships with their peers and adults around them, and respond to the things going on in their immediate environment. These skills serve as the foundation for children to develop, not only cognitive skills but social and emotional skills that help them become caring, responsible, and capable individuals.
Technology and Interactive Media in Early Childhood Education
Technology, when used appropriately and intentionally, can enhance learning. The National Association on Early Years Learning and the Fred Rogers Center released a position statement with regards to technology and interactive media as tools in early childhood programs for children from the time they’re born to age 8. The key message of this statement indicates that technology and interactive media, when used appropriately, can serve as appropriate tools to support learning and development.
Technology is more effective when it is utilized while actively engaging with adults and peers. In this time of the pandemic, technology serves as one of the most important mediums for children to learn and have access to quality education. Enrolling your child in virtual classes or online learning programs can help them develop not only cognitive skills but social skills as well. However, it is essential for this to be followed up by offline activities and learning opportunities he or she may do at home that extend their experiences.
These are just a few benefits that highlight the importance of early childhood education. Since the primary years of children are a critical period for learning and development, providing them with optimal learning experiences in a safe and conducive learning environment will set them on the path of being caring, capable, and responsible adults with a love for lifelong learning.