Early childhood education is, arguably, one of the most important stages of your little one’s early years. Parents may fear not knowing what they need to in order for their child to flourish mentally and emotionally. ECE is essential to your child’s future, so we created this comprehensive guide. Studies have shown that the first six to seven years of life are vital for the development of a kid — as this is also the time when the brain develops significantly.
As children get older, they are capable of doing more complex things. This is also referred to as child development. Which ultimately leads to the grounding of fundamental skills like gross motor, fine motor, language, social and cognitive. These development milestones correlate to early childhood education. They also determine the type of approach that you should be taking with your kid.
According to the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), ‘early childhood’ refers to the first 8 years in an individual’s life. During this time, the child undergoes major transformations as well as a rapid phase of development and growth. The main reasons why early child education is critical are — as previously mentioned — the fact that during these years the brain develops faster than in any other period of life. Also, young minds are incredibly easy to teach and mold. During these 8 years of life, children should be able to understand the fundamentals of social etiquette, self-esteem, right-and-wrong, perception and human relations.
Resources Available to You
Now that there are countless of online resources (blogs, forums, courses etc.) that educate parents in regards to their child’s development. It seems, more and more families are becoming aware of the importance of early childhood education. An interesting study conducted by the National Center of Education & Statistics (NCES), demonstrates that the number of pre-kindergarten enrollments has grown exponentially in the last 30 years. Despite the fact that preschool years are not mandated by the United States government (parents want to encourage positive development and nurturing of their little one’s mind).
But even knowing all of this, how can you ensure that your kid receives the best early childhood education? In the following guide we will tackle the following aspects of E.C. special education, and hopefully help you find the best answer:
- Development Milestones (social, emotional, language & cognitive development)
- Why it’s important to look at the world through a child’s eyes
- Family Involvement in Early Childhood Education
- The Early Childhood Education Program (ECE)
- Early childhood education jobs & degree options (for aspiring educators)
- Working with children & Early learning
Pediatricians use development milestones to monitor how a child is developing. Although reaching these milestones are expected at certain ages, each child is unique. The time-frame may vary significantly from one case to the other. Some children develop precociously, while others take a longer time, but they quickly begin a growth spur phase afterward. Countless guides out there help you understand the different stages of your child’s development from the first few months of life, up to adolescence.
What you need to understand is that monitoring a child’s development is a team effort. Your pediatrician’s contribution to it is vital, but the family also plays an essential role. Whenever you visit the paediatrician you should voice your concerns and tell him/her about the significant changes you observed since your last visit. There are four, significant development milestones that you should keep an eye out for: social, emotional, language & cognitive.
Extra resource: early childhood development (birth to 36 months)
Looking at the World Through a Child’s Eyes
Have you ever watched children interact with their surroundings? It’s fascinating. I recently came across an article, by WallStreetInsanity, which encourages adults to look at the world through the eyes of a child. Younger ones have a completely different perception of the world. In order to maximize the results of early childhood education, you need to understand how your kid’s mind works. For them, everything is new. Everything represents a new learning experience.
Most children, especially those under the age of ten, want to learn as much as they can about the world. In addition to this, as opposed to adults who are reserved by nature, children are always eager to make new friends. Encouraging your little one to interact with other children will help him develop social skills.
Additional takeaways from the article:
- A child’s imagination is limitless. This means that he has huge potential to develop in any direction.
- The world of a child is full of possibilities.
- Children aren’t self-conscious because they have not been constricted by the unwritten rules of society. They aren’t afraid to ask ‘stupid’ questions or to express their true selves. While it is important to understand the fundamentals of social etiquette, you should also make sure that your little one maintains an open and optimistic outlook on life.
Family Involvement in Early Childhood Education
As a parent, you are also your child’s first teacher. This may seem like an overwhelming and difficult task, but it isn’t. Early childhood education involves a lot of observation. The good news is that you are probably already spending most of your time with your little one. The main objective during the first stages of education is to witness the unfolding process of your child’s development, and to act based on it. Find out what age-appropriate skills he/she is improving, and encourage further activities that enhance them. There are a few things that you should keep an eye out for:
- language development
- learning & thinking abilities
- social & emotional development
- preparing a child for kindergarten
Early childhood education can also be done with the help of other members of the family (cousins, uncles, grandparents) who play an active part in the child’s life. The simple act of interacting, talking and asking questions can stimulate a kid’s mind and help him improve his social skills. Here are a few group activity ideas (learning through play & discovery):
- Children games: hide N seek, ring-around-the-pony, I spy with my little eye, mime, cops, and robbers, etc.
- Read books together
- Give everything a name
- bake cookies or prepare simple recipes
- play pretend games
- watch documentaries
The Best Investments you can Make:
Economic arguments surrounding the topic of early childhood education point towards the benefit of stewarding the health of children’s learning. While some parents choose to homeschool their kids during the first years of life, others decide to send them to preschool. Both methods can be effective, but the first one increases the risk of having your child fall behind.
“Most of our research says that if a child starts significantly behind, that’s a good predictor of how they’re going to end up in their third grade, the sixth grade and beyond (…) Investing in a child’s early years of development yields a much better return than waiting to invest in later years.” Arthur Rolnick in an interview with David Boulton.
In other words, the benefits of early childhood education are worth the extra investment. But the real problem isn’t that parents do not want to teach their children, it’s that they cannot afford to do it.
“It isn’t that early education isn’t important for every child. But clearly, in middle and upper middle class families a high percentage of children are brought up in a positive environment. They’ve got both the social and language skills to start school ready to learn.”
So how can you encourage your child’s development if you cannot afford, or do not want to send him, to preschool? Thanks to the rapid development of technology, there are more than a handful of resources, as well as learning methods, and parents forums & websites, where you can start:
- PBS Kids: I’ve actually reviewed this wonderful website a while back, and I still believe that it is one of the best resources for preschoolers. Aside from the huge collection of videos and educational games with famous PBS characters, children can also engage in exciting math, language, reading, science, and reasoning activities. Even if your little one can’t read yet, this isn’t a problem. All exercises can be enjoyed in written and spoken form and come with interesting graphics. However, the best part about PBS Kids is the fact that it offers a section dedicated to parents, with an in-depth guide regarding early childhood education, up to the 5th grade.
- Education.com is one of the largest online communities for parents and educators. On this website, adults can find out more about a children’s social, academic and emotional development patterns, and kids can have fun with the multitude of activities put at their disposal, including word building, reading, basic shapes, scavenger hunts, crafts, puzzles, coursed and more.
Suggested Read: How to Make Social Studies for Kids Fun
The Early Childhood Education Program
I have already mentioned the fact that early childhood education is critical in preparing children for entering school. But I haven’t shared the details of these studies. An interesting one demonstrated that proper education — offered during early years — could make it easier to close the educational achievement gap between underprivileged children and privileged ones. According to this study, children coming from families with low SES (social, economic status) know fewer words than those coming from high SES (approximately three times fewer words).
However, by participating in Early Childhood Education programs (ECE), they can improve their knowledge. Certain ECE programs offer scholarships to underprivileged children who demonstrate their willingness to learn, which means that the educational achievement gap will tighten even more.
Increasing IQ, One Fun Activity at a Time
Another study demonstrated that successful ECE programs could increase the average IQ of a child, before the age of five, by 4-11 points. Furthermore, a particularly successful benchmark reported a staggering 25-point gain. On the long run, Early Childhood Education improves, not only math and logical skills but also social skills, thus helping children become better members of society.
The program offers a range of coursework encompassing infants, toddlers, preschoolers, and primary-aged children. Through student teaching, field placements, and practical learning, students develop competence in the use of developmentally appropriate practices. Source: Education.pitt.edu
There are plenty of ECE programs that you can enroll to, in different states. They also promise a special degree at the end of the course. (Making it easier to obtain their bachelors, masters or associates certification degrees later in life). The curriculum for Early Childhood Education varies by state but follows the same general guidelines. Educators are trained beforehand to provide relevant coursework and learning activities for kids through the ECE Program.
Highlights of the Program:
- Designed to emphasize a child’s development in various fields.
- family-centered practices and strong support to help children overcome societal complexes.
- A hands-on learning experience with children of all ages, with a focus on toddlers, preschoolers, and kindergarteners, to prepare them for school and college.
- Team activities and workshops.
Early Childhood Education Jobs & Degree Options
ECE educators must follow the recommendations established by the Association of Teacher Educators & NAEYC. Also, they must hold one of the following degrees or certificates: the Primary Plus: PreK-4 Teacher Certificate; and the Masters of Education in Early Childhood Education or Elementary Education. As you can see, opportunities for employment as childhood educators have flourished. In part thanks to distance education and online degrees.
However, keep in mind that every state has its own rules and licensing requirements for preschool educators. For example, one state may require a masters degree, while the other one will request a special certificate. Through the Council for Professional Recognition — which administers the Child Development Associate National Credentialing Program — educators can receive professional certifications based on their dedication and performance.
If you are interested in a career as an early childhood teacher, you should follow specific training. Choose a topic (science, maths, history, etc.), and visit the best online resources for more information. Like: Teach for America, Vocational Information Center as well as NAEYC’s official portal.
WORKING WITH CHILDREN
Thinking about Before you begin working with children you should understand what it means. Being an Early Childhood Educator is by no means easy, so ask yourself: “Is this the right career choice for me?.” To answer this question, find out if you like working with children, and if you can do it on a daily basis. Young children are not like older ones. They have yet to learn the fundamentals of social etiquette — and their educational needs are different from those of regular students. The biggest challenge for educators is to soothe children in the beginning. For young children, being separated from their parents can prove difficult. Their reactions can be difficult to comprehend, and educators must be ready to adapt to any circumstance.
Also, Early Childhood education teachers must be able to act outside their comfort zone. But, while also placing themselves in the child’s shoes. For example, what do you think would motive a young child to study? Creative visuals? An interesting story? Crafts? To ensure that every lesson is interesting, you will have to constantly test your creativity.
Are you up for such a challenge?
Are you sensitive and patient enough? If you believe that you have what it takes to teach, do it. You can obtain proper credentials by enrolling in the above-mentioned programs. Once you obtain your bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education, look at specific state requirements for official teaching credentials. That will allow you to work in preschools, Montessori schools, and Kindergartens. Early childhood education jobs are plentiful. More and more American families are beginning to understand the potential of, once controversial, ECE programs.