When care is consistent, developmentally sound and emotionally supportive, there is a positive effect on the child and the family. A child exposed to a quality environment, whether at home or outside the home, is more likely to be prepared for school demands and less likely to have his or her social-emotional development derailed. A child who does not receive quality care can struggle in school and have a difficult time catching up, if he or she does at all, upon entering the formal education system.
Quality early childhood education is an innovative and cost-saving efficiency in developing the next generation’s skilled workforce. A quality early childhood education builds a child’s skill foundation for success in school and life. Research shows that quality early childhood education is especially a good investment for children who would normally begin kindergarten behind.
It is not uncommon for a kindergarten teacher to see a child lacking the ability to hold a pair of scissors or pencil correctly on the first day of school. A child behind may lack the ability to flip through pages of a book or may not recognize his or her own name above the coat hook. To focus on a child’s skill development and future education pathway beginning with kindergarten ignores the science of early childhood development and denies the importance of quality early childhood experiences.
Quality Matters Regardless of Place
All of a child’s early experiences, at home, in child care or in preschool settings, are educational. The arrangements families make for their children can vary dramatically. Sometimes a child is cared for by relatives, a nanny or babysitters. A child may attend a center-based child care, a family child care or attend a preschool program associated with a school. How a family chooses their child’s professional caregivers or care setting is influenced by family values, affordability and availability.
Depending on the type of child care needed for families, a child could be spending 2 or 3 hours a day up to 8 or 9 hours a day with their child care providers. At a time period when so much of the child’s brain is developing, child care professionals are helping parents establish their child’s foundation for all future learning. Teachers and other early childhood professionals have a big influence on the lives of young children in their care. Working with the parents to develop cognitive and social-emotional foundations will make a huge difference on that child and their future success.
What is High-Quality Early Childhood Education?
The phrase high-quality early childhood education gets used a lot, but what does it mean? In broad terms, it means the physical environment has developmentally appropriate materials. Children are able to move around and engage in hands-on activities. Adults interact with the children in meaningful ways, helping them deepen the knowledge that the child receives through play.
To determine the quality of an early childhood care program, there are developmentally appropriate assessments. These assessments should feel like play to the child. The child’s results guide curriculum aligned with state standards and guidelines around effective early childhood development and education. A quality program includes family members in a meaningful, reciprocal relationship around the child’s educational and care needs.