Early childhood education sets the foundation for the formation of core values, advance in cognitive development and socio-emotional awareness going ahead. Experiences at a young age have a profound impact on a child’s thoughts and behavioural patterns. This has a direct impact on the kind of adult and learner they will become.
The role of an environment
A nurturing environment during their childhood coupled with stimulating experiences will allow their neurons to form additional connections, and thus lead your child to acquire new skills. The two key factors are interest and curiosity. This in turn, prepares them to be resilient and helps them overcome the challenges that school and life will place their way.
For babies, learning about the world around them (and the acknowledgement that there is a world beyond them – moving away from egocentrism to sociocentrism) occurs during prenatal stages (before they are born – while they are inside their mother’s womb). This continues into the perinatal (right before and after birth) and postnatal stages.
During these early stages, children learn how to navigate an array of relationships – ranging from a partnership with their parents to friendships with their peers to mentorship by their teachers. This helps them become lifelong learners and develop healthy habits for their well-being.
The UNICEF website makes a strong case for the importance of early childhood development, citing on this page that ‘A good foundation in the early years makes a difference throughout adulthood and even gives the next generation a better start.’ Unicef research has confirmed the following:
- Brain development is rapid during early childhood (imagine your child’s brain as a sponge that is soaking up all that it can). If familial support and nurturing tendencies are lacking, it can have a severe impact on the neurological construct of a child’s brain.
- Nutrition and healthy brain development are, of course, closely linked.
- When investing in this sector, yields can be 4-5 times the amount invested.
The 4 main branches of early learning
- Social and emotional (reasoning abilities, self-regulation, social skills)
- Language and communication (the formation of sounds, verbal language acquisition, body language)
- Physical development/movement (fine and gross motor skills)
- Cognitive development (thinking, learning and problem-solving)
Parents can foster a more nurturing environment for their child by looking out for development milestones based on age group. The USA Centre for Disease Control and Prevention has a comprehensive list of developmental milestones which you can access here and this is another good resource which lists a more succinct list of basic developmental milestones.
Choosing an early-childhood program
Once your children are ready to attend nursery school, one could invest in the early childhood education/development program that best suits the needs of your child. Reading through the mission statements/ethos of the school and visiting in person (thus talking to teachers and fellow parents) will give you a better sense of the organisation.
Here are a few factors to consider:
- How far/close away is it from home? How much additional time will this add to your day-to-day as a parent and to your school going child’s routine?
- Cost – Is the school worth the cost? Investing in your child is ultra important but so is financial security for the years of education that are to come. Early-childhood is worth the extra investment because it hones these lifelong skills as a learner.
- What have other people said about the program? Does it have decent reviews? Have you asked the tough questions you’ve needed to ask?
- Why that school? What is your child learning and how is education structured there?
- Is it a good fit for your family and for your child? Does it align with the values you are inculcating at home and is it supplementing their at-home learning?