It’s hard to argue these days that early childhood education isn’t important. Numerous studies have shown the benefits of pre kindergarten education to be both wide-ranging and long-lasting, supporting children educationally, socially and financially throughout their lives. But now that the importance of early education has been established, it’s time to dig more deeply into a tough question: What kind of early education most benefits children?
There are numerous preschool education philosophies out there, and you may find that one in particular works best for your child. But if you’re just starting your investigation into early education practices, then it may be helpful to understand some of the key learning and development principles that truly excellent education of young children should be built upon. The National Association for the Education of Young Children has articulated 12 such principles (you can read about them at length at naeyc.org); here’s a brief look at five of the most important and how you might apply them to your choice of an early education program.
- “Development and Learning Proceed at Varying Rates”
Although many children develop the same skills at roughly the same age (and in most cases, skills develop in a certain order), there’s really no such thing as “normal.” You shouldn’t be concerned if your child is slightly late on learning certain skills, and you should choose a preschool program that can accommodate those kinds of variations.
- “Children Develop Best When They Have Secure Relationships”
Of course, you as a parent can do quite a bit to make sure your child is surrounded by loving, supportive relationships at home and in social settings. But you should also make sure any preschool you choose works to build stable relationships with teachers and peers, as well.
- “Development and Learning Occur in and Are Influenced by Multiple Social and Cultural Contexts”
School is important, but it’s not everything. Don’t forget that everything children do — whether that’s riding a bike or watching a video on an iPad — can affect their learning and development either positively or negatively.
- “Play Is an Important Vehicle for Developing Self-Regulation and Promoting Language, Cognition and Social Competence”
Preschools shouldn’t be mini versions of college lecture halls. When children engage in certain kinds of play, they’re not taking a break from learning — they are learning.
- “Children’s Experiences Shape Their Motivation and Approaches to Learning”
This principle should affect numerous aspects of the school experience. Not only should it be considered that outside experiences can have a profound impact on how a child responds to certain educational tactics, but there’s some extra motivation to make preschool experiences good ones; if your child has a bad experience in preschool, that could leave him or her with less of a desire to learn at higher schooling levels.
Do you have any thoughts to add? Join the discussion in the comments.