Our children are the future, but they can’t get there without a little guidance from us. Early childhood education (ECE) includes informal and formal education focused on children eight and younger. The early years of life have a significant effect on who children will become as they ease into adulthood, so ECE is an investment in the future.

The relationships children develop during early childhood is detrimental to how they will grow and fit into more formal settings, including society as a whole. We set the stage for learning by developing a bond with our children and finding new, creative ways to stimulate their minds. 

Young children learn to play with others, refine their motor skills, plan ahead, experiment to get the desired result, and use their imaginations.

Children who have more exposure to the outside world will develop more completely. Whether children are taught at home or in the classroom, relationships with parents, peers, and other educators are critical to children’s development.

In this article we analyze the benefits of ECE and what to expect from our youngsters. We also share some resources and tips on how to create an environment that helps children thrive intellectually and find the value in lifelong learning.

Prepare for Early Childhood Education With a More Play-Based Curriculum in Mind

Children carving pumpkin activity in ECE

Children don’t learn well under a lot of pressure, so there is no need to overwhelm them with worksheets designed to prepare them for the classroom. We can’t push children to develop faster; we can only provide them stimulating environments which feed their developmental needs.

Besides, starting school early doesn’t necessarily mean children will achieve more intellectually. According to My ECE Experts, children in Scandinavia don’t begin work in a formal classroom until seven, and these children tend to do much better with literacy in their later years.

Get Better Performance in Early Childhood Education By Not Overloading Children With Work

Early Childhood Education teaching children about nature and ladybugs

Young children who are overloaded with coursework won’t benefit as much as children who learn in an environment which stresses the importance of human interaction. My ECE Experts report that free play is the most beneficial and authentic learning a child can receive in the early years.

Early childhood is a time for children to learn how to take instruction, but we should understand that these activities should be limited and only take up a small part of the day. Children learn best when they’re eased into learning, not pushed.

Develop Concentration by Balancing Play and Instruction in Early Childhood

ECE teaches children play and structure with drawing pictures

While children are constantly on the lookout for new, exciting experiences, it is up to adults to find opportunities throughout the day to challenge their concentration. Children are full of energy, imagination, and loads of questions.

Although children shouldn’t be overloaded with work at such a young age, it is important that they learn the concept and importance of structure. We must teach them the balance between work and play by providing them opportunities to listen and follow instructions. Concentration can also be taught by assigning them group exercises.

Help Children in ECE Maintain Focus by Limiting Visual Distractions

Early Childhood Library

Children’s learning environments should be stimulating, but there is research that shows children to be distracted in highly decorated rooms. 

Anna Fisher, Karrie Godwin, and Howard Seltman of Carnegie Mellon University found that children in highly decorated classrooms had smaller learning gains and were often more distracted than children placed in more sparse classrooms. 

Psychologist Anna Fisher recommends teachers consider how distracting their visual displays can be for children and remove them accordingly.

Children Can Overcome Roadblocks and Challenges by Developing Resilience

Teaching children resilience the building blocks in early childhood education

At times, the world is full of disappointment and unforeseeable consequences. We must aspire to create an environment which is safe, secure, and fair. The more clear our expectations, the more likely children are to meet them.

Children learn to manage their emotions better when they’re in a more predictable environment with foreseeable consequences for their actions. Children should still be challenged, but children are more likely to overcome challenges which occur in these consistently safe and fair environments.

Recognize Developmental Shifts to Optimize Learning

Play time is important in Preschool and ECE education - image of young girl cooking with clay

According to Piaget, there are four basic stages of development. The first, sensorimotor, occurs before age two; they learn about the world through trial and error, including the use of their bodies. The next stage is preoperational and encapsulates children aged two to seven.

The preoperational stage concerns learning language and developing memory and imagination. The goal is to learn to think symbolically and attach words to objects in their environment. Ashley Marcin outlines Piaget’s stages of learning, so we can identify developmental shifts and optimize our

Facilitate Activities to Complement Children's Play Development

Preschooler and toddler playing with toys together in ECE

Pathways outlines the six stages of play young children experience: unoccupied play, solitary play, spectator behavior, parallel play, associate play, and cooperative play. Around age two, children start observing the playing behaviors of other children (spectator behavior) and play alongside (though not always with) other children (parallel play).

By ages three and four, children start wanting to associate with other children and play cooperatively. You should choose to facilitate activities which allow those in the early stages of childhood to play alongside and with other children in an age-appropriate fashion.

Improve Socialization by Introducing Children to Those Outside of the Family

Diversity in children is important in early childhood education

Family is the first influence children have, especially the parents. While these relationships are important, Vicki Palmer recommends you learn to share your children with those outside of the family before children age too much.

Children need to learn to build friendships and doing so can help improve their self-confidence. We could prevent proper social development by neglecting these social needs.

Teach Cooperation Through the Creation of Safe Learning Environments

Preschool classroom teaches cooperation

Children start learning to play cooperatively around ages three and four. Children benefit from learning to share and play cooperatively with their peers, especially those who may be an only child. This is even true of the oldest child in the family since they have no peers to practice sharing with.

It is crucial that children learn to share during this stage, for it is harder to teach as they age. You should create a safe learning environment that encourages children to share with one another.

Learn How Teamwork in Larger Groups can Help Children's Ability to Cooperate

Preschool children playing in a large group

Many ECE programs involve teamwork, so children can learn to work in a team of their peers. Teamwork is important to teach at a young age since it can further our teachings of respect for others and our immediate shared environment.

Children who work in teams learn to listen to and cooperate with others. Vicki Palmer states that children who learn to work in a team early on become more socially attuned than those without much teamwork experience.

Teach Respect by Exposing Children to Shared Environments

Early Childhood at play - toddlers with color chalk

When children are eased into an environment which stresses sharing and the importance of all members of a group, children learn how to respect others and their space and possessions. Respect for the environment is also learned during these early stages of development.

In an ECE environment like preschool or daycare, children learn about shared environments through experience (Experience is the best teacher). Here, children can learn civility and manners whilst they gain an understanding of respect for the much broader global environment.

Teach Kindness to Increase Peer Acceptance, Decrease Stress, and Improve Overall Health in Early Learning

ECE to teach kindness -Two girls trying to carry a boy

Children learn better when their peers, parents, and teachers treat them with kindness. Children who practice kindness are more accepted by their peers, have a greater sense of belonging, and improved self-esteem.

The TeachThought Staff details how practicing kindness decreases stress and depression, increases feelings of gratitude, and ultimately improves children’s health. Children who practice kindness are happier and exhibit greater levels of concentration and are able to think more creatively. Taking measures to increase kindness in the classroom can also reduce bullying and violence among members of our youth.

Understand Preschool Children's Development and Choose Age-Appropriate Toys to Stimulate Minds

Preschool girl playing with a camera

Preschool-aged children use their language skills to interact with their peers and develop relationships while they play. They learn how parts fit together as a whole and refine complex motor skills. Children of this age are even learning to plan ahead and experiment to get the desired result.

Preschool-aged children benefit from playing with toys which allow them to build. Family Education recommends: construction toys, art materials, props for recreating life (like a store), simple musical instruments, outdoor toys (like balls and bubbles), and nature itself (like rocks and sticks).

Understand Development Beyond Preschool and Choose Age-Appropriate Toys and Games to Develop Skill

ECE - Development beyond preschool as two girls learn through art.

Children younger than eight (but older than three or four) learn to play cooperatively and focus more on group play. These children learn to resolve conflicts, follow (and create) rules, and use new skills. They become better at using symbols like letters and numbers, and they use their time to develop their own hobbies and interests.

Older children are more interested in games of skill (like checkers), science equipment, crafting materials, collecting items, and storytelling. All children need stimulation from the objects in their environment to learn how to play.

Teach Patience by Exposing Children to Opportunities Which Require Waiting

ECE teacher teaches students patience in raising hands and waiting their turn

Children are not born with patience, which is perhaps why they take from ours so often during the day. Patience is a social skill, and it can only be taught by exposing children to experiences which teach them to wait.

Exploration of the outside world is the most effective way to help children learn patience. Children learn to take turns when playing with others. ECE programs teach children to wait every time they must share our attention or wait in a line before participating in a desirable activity.

Reveal to Children the Diversity of the World

Diversity is important in ECE - Little Girl Hold Toddler

We live in a diverse world and experience people of (sometimes) vastly different backgrounds. Individual differences should be valued and celebrated, and the best way to get this reaction from our children is to model that behavior.

ECE programs help in exposing children to diversity and teaching them to appreciate others for their unique cultural and ethnic differences. Watch how some early childhood educators from this PBS News Hour broadcast are teaching children to accept and appreciate our many differences.

Treat Children as Individuals to Encourage Lifelong Learning

Toddler learning to read is education that is lifelong learning

Each child is an individual, so their educations shouldn’t be identical. Every child has strengths and areas where they could improve. When you understand their development and initiate fun activities and lessons, this encourages children to learn and continue learning across the lifespan.

When we are enthusiastic about our children’s learning and creative in teaching our children, they will share in our enthusiasm. The more we inspire them now, the more they will inspire us later.

Benefit the Minds of our Youth by Stressing the Importance of Parental Involvement

Mother and child on a laptop - parental involvement is important in early education

Prior to preschool, children are most significantly influenced by their parents. Parents who involve themselves with their children’s learning help them apply to the real world what they learned in the classroom. Parents help increase children’s confidence by practicing at home what they learned in school.

Parents who pay attention to their children’s schooling are more likely to pick up on who their influences are outside of the home. Andrea Peck recommends parents get an idea of any problem areas by coordinating with those part of their children’s ECE program.

Parents who Attend Meetings with Staff get Greater Direction

Parents in preschool classroom

Coordinating with early childhood educators can help us better understand where our children fall in regards to the expectations we have for their development. Knowing where our children excel and where they could improve is the first step to encouraging them to keep learning.

When we treat our children’s education as important, they will also recognize and acknowledge its importance. Additionally, teachers and other staff members will appreciate parental involvement and discuss any concerns with children’s advancement in the classroom.

Early Childhood Education Programs Support Development and Assess Individual Needs

Kindergarten class - teacher to child ratio is essential in ECE

ECE programs are designed to support children during each stage of development and assess a child’s individual needs, identifying the problem areas and strengths of each child. According to the National Education Association (as reported by Early Childhood Education Degrees), classroom sizes in a good ECE program are small and have low teacher-child ratios. These programs employ well-educated individuals who are paid well for their patience in building young minds.

Good Preschool Teachers Engage Children and Monitor Progress

Preschoolers sitting around a table learning to paint

Preschool teachers monitor children’s progress and engage children in play and planned learning activities. PreSchool Teacher outlines characteristics of high-quality early education programs and curricula.

Good ECE programs plan a balanced curriculum that involves play and structured learning activities where they teach children how to use language, develop listening and speaking skills, and expose them to learning materials like books. Listen to Cori Dewijn explain the challenges and rewards of becoming an early childhood educator to help you decide if it’s the right career path for you.

Those Who Want to Teach our Youth Should be Patient Communicators

Teacher reading to children is important in education

If you want to work in ECE, you must first meet certification requirements (which vary according to state and type of institution). Most programs will require an Associate’s degree, but some will want a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree in education. Teacher Certification Degrees lists some job titles for this career path like “Early Education Teacher,” “Preschool Teacher,” and “Elementary School Teacher.”

Aspiring early childhood educators should like working with children. Teach recommends teachers to be creative and sensitive, practice patience, and be skilled in communication. After all, the first few years of life are highlighted by communication.

Remember that Children Are Members of Society​

ECE program teaches children early the importance members of society - four girls holding up signs

Children are members of society—they are simply members of society who currently take more than they receive. One day the tables will turn, they will teach the next generation, and they will (to an extent) care for the older generations.

Children who participate in some form of ECE do better in grade school, partially because they are aware of the expectations. According to Childventures Blogs, these children develop better social skills, longer attention spans, and a greater enthusiasm for learning across the lifespan than children who never attended ECE programs.

Conclusion

In ECE children learn in different ways - child playing with color chalk

Young children aren’t meant to sit still at a desk and mark up papers, at least not for long periods of time. Children should learn to do things like follow instruction and use letters and numbers to communicate. However, they should also be given plenty of time to play in a safe and consistent environment.

Children want to know what is expected of them, and though they shouldn’t be pushed too hard to learn, we are obligated to show them the value of education through our actions. Those teaching our youth should be enthusiastic, but they should also be fun, creative, patient, sensitive, and good communicators. Parents who involve themselves in their children’s education can teach them to be enthusiastic about learning. Brightside Academy suggest that parents should support teachers by finding ways to point out letters and numbers their children have learned in school.

Children make us better people, for they teach us what skills we have yet to learn. No one expects perfection, especially not from children. You can’t expect to teach them everything today—you must take one step at a time.

Pay attention to their development, reward and congratulate them on what they’re doing well, and take small steps to improve their problem areas. Remember, early childhood is the first step of life—help them start strong.

 

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