When was the last time that you experienced something completely novel and unique?
If you’re the parent of a young child, then you will constantly find yourself living vicariously through your little one’s dynamic firsts! After all, every single day your child experiences something that they have never encountered before. A first sneeze can be a terrifying experience, while a first sunset can create a magical memory for life.
High-quality early childhood education programs are like laboratories for these little scientists. It’s only in the classroom that small children can safely and comfortably encounter the unknowns of the world beyond their first classroom—your home. As a child’s first teacher, it’s up to you to make the right choice when it comes to your little one’s education.
Smart parents understand that smart kids only become smarter when they have the opportunity to stretch their brains and truly grow. Keep reading to learn about the important ways that early childhood education helps loving parents raise kind, resilient, and intelligent kids!
Types of Education for Children Under Five
If you’re just now beginning your journey into exploring early childhood programs, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. You’re probably encountering a lot of information about pedagogy, and are being asked to define your ideal “educational philosophy.” This can be a challenge if your only goal is to encourage your child to make friends and learn the alphabet!
In essence, “pedagogy” is just a fancy way to describe how teachers present the school curriculum. Some programs believe in a structured educational program. Others schedule more time for open exploration and play.
Your best bet is to visit several different programs in your area and see what your options are. Some of the programs you may encounter might include:
- Montessori preschools
- Play-based programs
- Reggio Emilia or Reggio-Inspired programs
- Academic preschools
- Daycares with instruction
- Forest Kindergartens or Nature Schools
It can be helpful to decide what your priorities are before you go on a tour with your child. For example, are workbooks and worksheets a dealbreaker? Do you want your child to spend the majority of the day outside?
The Importance of Being Together
There is no wrong choice when it comes to choosing an early childhood program – only the best choice for you and your child. The value of an early childhood program is simply in providing your child opportunities to practice independence and to exist harmoniously with others. Ultimately, the early childhood classroom is where children learn to coexist.
While some early childhood programs may have “exit goals” for your child, good teachers know that every child develops differently. Not all students will be ready to read, write, or do math by the end of preschool. Ideally, your goals for your child should be to develop the soft skills they will need once they enter more formal education settings.
Does your child know what to do when they encounter conflict with another child? In the classroom, something as simple as a squabble over sharing a toy quickly turns into a teachable moment. Educators understand how to support children as they practice skills like patience and compromise.
If your child is fidgety, simply gathering for circle time or story time can teach them self-regulation skills. In groups, children learn to pay focused attention. Listening to retain is a skill that little ones practice every day at school.
Most importantly, young children learn to care for themselves when there is no parent nearby. Children who have never cleaned their room will learn to clean up their toys and materials like pros! They will have the opportunity to practice managing their personal belongings, such as crayons or water bottles.
Growth Across Developmental Domains
Early childhood classrooms are also spaces where it’s safe to get a little bit messy and experiment! Teachers understand the importance of novel sensory experiences for brain development. Engaging with playdoh, fingerprint, sand, and water can change the physical structure of your child’s brain!
Additionally, many children develop nuanced language and listening skills once they’re introduced to the school environment. They will learn to both ask and answer questions. For many children, first friendships happen at school with peers!
Early childhood programs also foster physical development of both fine and gross motor skills. Outdoor time primes muscles that help children develop their bodies from the core outward. This makes it possible to develop the essential fine motor skills necessary for writing later on.
Cognitively, children benefit from exposure to new ideas and concepts. Many preschool programs utilize a theme-based curriculum. Children will learn a lot about a variety of subjects that they would not have exposure to at home.
If nothing else, your child will have access to new books, new toys, and new experiences. They will hear and consider diverse perspectives from teachers and peers. For many children, school is the place where they learn where their unique strengths lie.
Ultimately, school is an intentional source of novelty. Children emerge from early childhood programs with brand new skills and the confidence to use them. You can read this to learn more about what school can do for even the neediest child.
Early Childhood Education Changes Lives
Early childhood education might look a lot like play—and it’s that way for a reason! Talented educators curate small worlds where children are free to explore the questions that will help them develop into well-rounded human beings. As a parent, it’s your job to find the program that will start your child off on a brilliant path of passionate, lifelong learning!
Your learning doesn’t have to stop here, either! Check out the rest of the blog for more posts that can help you make the best choices for your family.