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With so many disruptions this year, and months spent at home, early childhood education is now more important than ever to keep children on track and learning, to offer stability and routine, and to nurture all aspects of their development, beyond just academic, in a safe, healthy space.
Early education is an essential step toward a successful future.
Of course, home is the place where children know they are loved best of all. A safe, secure, and loving home and family is the most important thing in a child’s life. At the same time, holistic and robust child development occurs when children discover the benefits of an early childhood educational experience outside of the home.
Why is this so critical? Let’s explore 5 reasons.
1. A YES Environment
In her Child Care Exchange article, Kaila Weingarten introduced the term, “YES Environment.” A YES environment is a safe, positive place that encourages learning and growth. An early childhood classroom is set up to be a YES Environment by ensuring:
An abundance of age-appropriate materials so children can explore and learn without safety concerns;
2. The Power of Play
Imagine a chef without a stove or a mathematician without a computer. How could they do their jobs? A young child who is not able to play is like a chef without a stove! The ability to play is a child’s most valuable resource and it is provided in abundance in the early childhood classroom.
Through play a child learns critical cognitive, social, emotional, and language skills. Through play children make sense of their world, understand their feelings, and work through new experiences and ideas. In addition to contributing to physical and sensory development, large muscle active play builds neural connections necessary for children to regulate their emotions, focus their attention, develop the ability to plan, and the perseverance to complete a task.
3. Interactions with children from different backgrounds, cultures, and race
There are many skills that help children make friends and interact with others, such as the ability:
These are the skills that contribute to a child's happiness because they help children make and keep friends. Building a classroom community of children who come from diverse backgrounds help children practice and learn these skills.
4. Children learn in relationship with others
Interactions with teachers as well as peers allow the child to observe and practice new skills. This learning process is called the zone of proximal development. Conceived by psychologist Lev Vygotsky, the zone is the difference between what a learner can do without help and what they can achieve with the help of someone more skilled.
In an early childhood classroom, a child is both a learner and a teacher. They learn new skills from more knowledgeable peers and teach their peers the skills and concepts they know well!
5. Opportunity to develop self-confidence and leadership skills
An early childhood classroom gives children opportunities to use their voices, make decisions, and solve problems. When children think through problems and have time to come up with their own solutions, their sense of self and confidence will grow. Problem-solving and self-confidence are foundational leadership skills, but there are still more skills developed in the classroom.
Every day in early childhood classrooms, children are discovering a safe, healthy environment, designed to help them learn, grow, and build a foundation for future success.
For more on the importance of early childhood education, read these expert analyses:
National Academy of Sciences: https://thesciencebehindit.org/does-quality-early-childhood-education-lead-to-more-successful-lives-as-adults/