Early Childhood Education

When do you need to start teaching your child? According to wikipedia early childhood education is a branch of education theory which relates to the teaching of young children (formally and informally) up until the age of about eight. Infant/toddler education, a subset of early childhood education, denotes the education of children from birth to age two. While the first two years of a child’s life are spent in the creation of a child’s first “sense of self”, most children are able to differentiate between themselves and others by their second year. This differentiation is crucial to the child’s ability to determine how they should function in relation to other people. Parents can be seen as a child’s first teacher and therefore an integral part of the early learning process. Early childhood education often focuses on learning through play, based on the research and philosophy of Jean Piaget, which posits that play meets the physical, intellectual, language, emotional and social needs (PILES) of children. Children’s natural curiosity and imagination naturally evoke learning when unfettered. Thus, children learn more efficiently and gain more knowledge through activities such as dramatic play, art, and social games.

Tassoni suggests that “some play opportunities will develop specific individual areas of development, but many will develop several areas.” Thus, It is important that practitioners promote children’s development through play by using various types of play on a daily basis. Key guidelines for creating a play-based learning environment include providing a safe space, correct supervision, and culturally aware, trained teachers who are knowledgeable about the Early Years Foundation.

Davy states that the British Children’s Act of 1989 links to play-work as the act works with play workers and sets the standards for the setting such as security, quality and staff ratios. Learning through play has been seen regularly in practice as the most versatile way a child can learn. Margaret McMillan (1860-1931) suggested that children should be given free school meals, fruit and milk, and plenty of exercise to keep them physically and emotionally healthy. Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925) believed play allows children to talk, socially interact, use their imagination and intellectual skills. Marie Montessori (1870-1952) believed that children learn through movement and their senses and after doing an activity using their senses.

In a more contemporary approach, organizations such as the National Association of the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) promote child-guided learning experiences, individualized learning, and developmentally appropriate learning as tenets of early childhood education.

Piaget provides explanation an for why learning through play is such a crucial aspect of learning as a child. However, due to the advancement of technology the art of play has started to dissolve and has transformed into “playing” through technology. Greenfield, quoted by the author, Stuart Wolpert in the article, “Is Technology Producing a Decline in Critical Thinking and Analysis?”, states, “No media is good for everything. If we want to develop a variety of skills, we need a balanced media diet. Each medium has costs and benefits in terms of what skills each develops.” Technology is beginning to invade the art of play and a balance needs to be found.

The Developmental Interaction Approach is based on the theories of Jean PiagetErik EriksonJohn Dewey and Lucy Sprague Mitchell. The approach focuses on learning through discovery. Jean Jacques Rousseau recommended that teachers should exploit individual children’s interests in order to make sure each child obtains the information most essential to his personal and individual development. The five developmental domains of childhood development include:

Physical: the way in which a child develops biological and physical functions, including eyesight and motor skills

Social: the way in which a child interacts with others Children develop an understanding of their responsibilities and rights as members of families and communities, as well as an ability to relate to and work with others.

Emotional: the way in which a child creates emotional connections and develops self-confidence. Emotional connections develop when children relate to other people and share feelings.

Language: the way in which a child communicates, including how they present their feelings and emotions. At 3 months, children employ different cries for different needs. At 6 months they can recognize and imitate the basic sounds of spoken language. In the first 3 years, children need to be exposed to communication with others in order to pick up language. “Normal” language development is measured by the rate of vocabulary acquisition.

Cognitive skills: the way in which a child organizes information. Cognitive skills include problem solving, creativity, imagination and memory. They embody the way in which children make sense of the world. Piaget believed that children exhibit prominent differences in their thought patterns as they move through the stages of cognitive development: sensorimotor period, the pre-operational period, and the operational period

In recent decades, studies have shown that early childhood education is critical in preparing children to enter and succeed in the (grade school) classroom, diminishing their risk of social-emotional mental health problems and increasing their self-sufficiency as adults. In other words, the child needs to be thought to rationalize everything and to be open to interpretations and critical thinking.