For young children, every experience or encounter presents a learning opportunity. They learn from everything they see, do, hear, feel, smell, and taste; everyone they interact (talk, play, laugh) with; and everywhere they go.
Studies suggest that quality early childhood education preschool offers a range of benefits to children, as well as to their families and their communities. In a recent report, childhood education specialists argued that preschool children learn best when they interact with their peers, receive kind treatment from their parents and educators, and don’t feel pressured to learn.
The specialists also suggested that children learn the most when educational and instructional activities make up a small segment of their days, which is something that quality preschool programs emphasize. Some of the advantages of early childhood education include:
A tremendous amount of social and emotional development takes place during early childhood. As kids experience temper tantrums, mood swings, and an expanding social world, they must learn more about their emotions as well as those of other people.
Social development involves learning the values, knowledge and skills that enable children to relate to others effectively and to contribute in positive ways to family, school and the community. This kind of learning is passed on to children directly by those who care for and teach them, as well as indirectly through social relationships within the family or with friends, and through children’s participation in the culture around them. Through their relationships with others and their growing awareness of social values and expectations, children build a sense of who they are and of the social roles available to them. As children develop socially, they both respond to the inﬂuences around them and play an active part in shaping their relationships.
Take a moment to imagine what it would be like to look at the words on this page and not be able to comprehend the meaning these words have collectively. Perhaps you do not have to imagine.
How young children develop and understand language is a complex topic, and is one of the key developmental milestones of early childhood. Language allows children to identify and communicate feelings, needs and emotions, with parents, educators and other children. Comprehension, understanding and interpretation of language—both oral and written—provide the foundation for lifelong learning.
Engaging children with language from birth is one of the best ways to develop strong literacy skills. People who cannot comfortably read in their own language are unlikely to read to their children. Many of the parents in your services will chat to their children quite naturally, establishing expressive and responsive conversations from the very beginning, equipping their children in the best possible way with the building blocks of language and literacy. But some, for a variety of reasons, will not, and these parents need your support and guidance to be able to appreciate the benefits of language development in very young children and most importantly, to enable parents to become their child’s first teacher.
The good news is that you, and the families you work with, have all the equipment needed to support children’s language development. Use language with children on a regular basis by singing, reading and playing. Routine care offers endless opportunities for supporting language development: nappy changing, washing and especially mealtimes; encouraging children to talk about food—it’s texture, taste, feel and so much more.
Language fulfills another important function: language and culture are inseparable expressions of each other. Encouraging parents whose first language is not English to speak that language consistently with their child gives their child many advantages: they will become bilingual, they will learn about the culture embedded in that language by sharing with family and friends, and their ability for language learning will be stronger, thus helping them learn English more easily at play school or school.
The importance of developing emotional skills
Emotional skills are being able to recognise, express, understand and manage a wide range of feelings.
Children who can understand and manage their feelings, stay calm and enjoy experiences are more likely to develop a positive sense of self and be confident and curious learners.
Adults can help children manage their intense emotions
Helping children manage their emotions involves creating and maintaining children’s feelings of safety, calm and optimism. For this to happen, children need repeated experiences of having their needs met by a responsive and caring adult.
Children need adults to help when they are feeling overwhelmed. They also need support from adults to contain and manage their intense feelings.
Gradually children learn to manage emotions for themselves from their experiences with warm, responsive adults.