The years from birth to age 5 are special years in children’s lives.
During this time, they begin to express their personalities, which can be adorable, hilarious and even embarrassing at times (as nearly every parent or caregiver can attest).
These years are also a crucial time for cognitive, emotional and social development. Early childhood education plays an essential role in fostering children’s development before the age of 5 and prepares them for success for the rest of their academic years and beyond.
If you’re considering enrolling your child in a local preschool, there are several important criteria to look for in the program you choose:
- A defined curriculum
- Structured lesson plans
- A variety of hands-on learning experiences
- Qualified teachers who encourage parental involvement and regular communication
Keep reading to learn how a quality early childhood education can make a difference in your child’s development and future success.
Young children are naturally full of creativity and curiosity to explore the world around them. It’s truly incredible what a child can pick up just through informal play, social interaction and observation.
- Between the ages of 2 and 5, kids start to think and reason
- By age 2, the average child can say about 50 words
- By age 5, most children can say thousands of words, carry on conversations and tell stories
But to gain the foundational skills needed for future academic success, it takes some guidance in a safe, secure, nurturing environment. A positive preschool experience enables your child’s cognitive development to thrive by taking advantage of the years when learning occurs much more quickly.
- According to the widely-adopted Reggio Emilia philosophy of early education, children have the right to teachers and an educational environment that cultivates a lifelong interest in learning.
- The early education classroom should be led by a qualified teacher with the appropriate credentials for providing the quality learning experiences every parent expects.
- Teachers should use a variety of age-appropriate activities that stimulate interest across a range of subjects, from basic reading and math, to science, language, art, music and drama.
EMOTIONAL AND SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT
Another benefit of quality early education is that it provides an outlet for young children to express emotions with people outside of the family.
- Between the ages of 2 and 5, children should start learning how to manage their feelings.
- It is important to provide a way for young children to interact with their peers so they can develop all-important social skills.
- From sharing toys to discovering they won’t always get their way in life, playing with other children provides a rich educational experience in and of itself, in addition to lessons taught in the classroom.
Developmental psychologist Erik Erikson pointed out that social-emotional development occurs in stages.
- His research suggests children need to learn from their peers to grow into socially healthy adults.
- The first phase of socialization occurs by ages 1 or 2. The child who is well cared for develops trust, security and an overall optimism for life. Children who suffer abuse are more likely to become insecure and mistrustful of others.
- Ages 3 and 5 are the “play ages,” according to Erikson. This is when children begin to imagine, cooperate with others, lead and follow. The best way to practice these skills is to play with other children who are close in age — both at preschool and through regular playdates.
A quality early education program goes beyond teaching academic skills. It also helps children foster relationships with their peers and trusted adults.
It also maintains open lines of communication and encourages parental involvement in the learning process. At Little Sunshine’s Playhouse & Preschool®, for example, parents receive daily emails, known as Luvnotes™, summarizing their child’s activities each day, along with pictures or videos. KiddieCams™ provide parents with viewing access to any location in the school, from a monitor placed within the school.
After your child returns home from a day at preschool, take some time to just listen. Chances are, you’ll hear stories that communicate important information — their favorite activities, their biggest challenges and how important their friends are to them.
You can learn more about the importance of early childhood education in Part Two of this article, Common Questions About Early Childhood Education.If you’re interested in learning more about the unique Creatively Shine™ curriculum at Little Sunshine’s Playhouse & Preschool®, visit our website to find a location closest to you.