Education and Development in Early Childhood
John Brownridge Ed.D.
Psychologists and educators usually consider the time span between birth and the age of 8 to be the early childhood years. This stage in human life is widely recognized as an extremely important one, due to the fact that most neural connections and cerebral functions affecting every aspect of human development are formed during this developmental period. In recent years, governments have directed new financial resources to early childhood education (ECE), as research indicated ever more convincingly that if children are neglected at this stage of their lives, their future progress and development can be severely jeopardized.
Although educators recognize that parents and primary care givers form an integral part of their children’s education, early childhood education usually refers to part of the formal process offered through a government sponsored education system. Most educators see education as a holistic process in which all aspects of human development, whether physical, intellectual, social, or emotional, are nurtured and developed. This is especially true of early childhood education. ECE programs are carefully planned and implemented to ensure that all developmental domains are fully addressed and nurtured.
Many resources are available to parents to assist with the physical development of young children from an early age. Upon entry into a more formal system, however, physical growth and development become an integral part of the program. This involves the promoting of good nutrition, healthy play activity, and the monitoring of motor control development. Equipment such as balls, hoops, and ride-on toys are used to develop gross and fine motor skills.
Hands-on manipulative materials are essential to a well-equipped early childhood education program. Sand and water tables, building blocks, paints and crayons are all used to provide children with the sensory experiences and motricity they need to develop perceptive ability. Their experiences with these materials allow them to discover the world around them and to process the information they obtain in productive play.
Young children are highly disposed to learn language through speech and in written symbols. Early childhood programs provide daily opportunities for children to communicate their thoughts and feelings in a variety of ways, and they learn to listen through music and story telling. Interaction with other children also allows them to develop fundamental social skills as well as a propensity to use language in all its forms. These interactions are initial steps towards forming relationships with others, and they are instrumental in the development and control of a variety of emotions such as well-being, annoyance, and frustration
As with all educational activity, early childhood education is fundamentally concerned with intellectual or cognitive development. Contrary to the understanding of many people, children learn to think, react, and make choices at a very early age, and it is important that opportunities for exercising these mental processes be provided on a day-to-day basis. ECE programs contain number and symbol experiences that can assist with this. Elementary concepts of quantity, addition, and subtraction are formed through the manipulation of physical objects.
Many educators feel that early childhood education was significantly neglected in the past, but as research continued and the benefits of early intervention were demonstrated, ECE programs have become the norm in most jurisdictions. This is a fortunate turn of events. The future progress and development of children from all backgrounds is assured because early childhood education is now considered an indispensable component of a formal system