Early childhood stage is an important part of a child’s intellectual development. During this stage, the brain picks up anything from the surrounding environment. This initial stage of a child’s growth plays a significant role in motivating and preparing a child to embrace education. Early childhood education forms the foundation of a child’s mental and academic development. It is important to recognize the contribution that early childhood education plays in an individual’s life and how it affects personal growth process. Proper curriculum in education encourages and develops language skills and acquisition of vocabulary. Children often learn social and interaction skills through formal education and social activities. As a result, they are able to develop their personal values.
Importance of Early Childhood Education
Traditionally, children were considered to be unable to distinguish between right and wrong. Therefore, people never saw the need to impart knowledge during their early stages. This outdated school of thought might hold some truth to some extent. However, it is vital to mention that children often accommodate everything in their immediate environment. The mind of a developing child operates like a sponge. Therefore, early childhood education is essential (McGowan, 2012).
Research carried out on brain development reveals how memory connects well with the development of a person’s emotional, physical, and social capability. If these fundamentals are ignored during a child’s development, it would affect their learning potential. Early childhood stage refers to the first eight years of a child after birth. Research carried out on a child’s brain capacity indicates that eighty five percent of the brain develops at the age of five and that the brain of a child at the age of three functions two and a half times more effective than the brain of an adult (Whitfield, 2010). During childhood, learning experiences from diverse areas makes up the number of brain cell connections. These connections are strengthened by continuous stimulation from the environment (Whitfield, 2010). The first three years of a child are considered the prime time where the brain absorbs new information like a sponge (Whitfield, 2010). Proper education in early childhood develops a child’s foundation of their whole life by integrating the social, mental and the academic aspects of life. An important element to consider in early childhood is that ages five to eight form the most influential stage in the life of a child because it determines the type of person a child will become upon maturing. This stage is important in the academic and mental development of an individual.
According to early childhood education research studies, a child at the age of three has the most capacity in developing language skill and learning vocabulary. This stage is considered to be the foundation of literacy (Whitfield, 2010). Whitfield carried out research studies to determine the importance of language skills development in early childhood. Interesting findings were gathered from the study. From the study, it was found out that educators in daycare services have several opportunities of stimulating practical skills that help children acquire language skills at the age of five (Rigby, 2007).
Studies have shown the importance of educational setting and specific training of language skills in developing and promoting language skills in children. These studies were carried out at a daycare center with 22 educators and 174 children. Language skills practice were divided into three parts which included educator waiting and listening, educator following child’s lead and educator adjusting child’s sentence. Instances where the educator adjusted the child’s language registered few improvements as compared to when educators waited and listened (Ricker, 2011). In the groups where the educator waits and listen and where the educator follows the child’s lead, children try to use new vocabulary to construct sentences. This was however, a different case in groups where the educators made corrections when wrong grammar was used. The children in this category failed to use any new vocabulary in constructing sentences and some were not showing any signs of starting to talk any time soon. In this research, it was clear that children tend to learn from their surrounding environment. Their language skills can be improved by simple structural changes and practice (Mayse, 2004).
Early childhood development affects several aspects of a child’s life such as academic, physical activities, relationship with other people and emotional development. People tend to think that children develop their ego during their adolescent stage, which is not usually the case. During the first eight years of a growing child, children tend to realize their identity and at this stage, their inner capacity of imagination and image of gender roles start to develop. In addition, they keenly monitor the immediate environment and learn how to associate with friends. Children also acquire their social skills through play and education.
A child’s academic and language skills are not only education oriented. These skills can be developed through directed play and proper interaction with children (Snapp, 2012). The latter author carried out an experiment to show the difference between child- directed play whereby children decide what they want to do and express themselves, and adult directed play whereby a parent or an educator dictates what the child should play. During the experiment, a five year old boy who had aggressive behaviors towards other people and had no friends was asked to participate in child directed play with his parents. Initially the boy rejected the idea of his parents playing with him, but he gradually started to interact and invite them into the play. In this experiment, the conclusion was that child directed plays establish egos and practice on how to express and control emotions (Hechinger, 1990).
During the first preparation of child education, the brain plays an important role in absorbing what is in the immediate environment. They also tend to learn a lot when interacting with the government. Parents and educators should understand that children have their own independent thinking and proper education based on care and attachment can influence their overall behavior influence. The society ought to contribute towards the proper development of a child by providing productive programs to both children and caregivers. This could go along way in promoting a child’s mental and intellectual development. Such an initiative is a crucial investment in any society.
Early childhood education forms an important stage in laying the foundation for a lifelong learning and development of a person. This is considered as the initial step towards formal education. Early childhood education is also integrated with primary, secondary, and tertiary education to form a complete spectrum of learning program. The period between birth and the eighth year of a child ought to be utilized properly to the benefit of a child. The external environment should favor the positive growth of a child. In order to achieve this broad objective, a safe and accomodating environment with abundant sensory stimulation should be made available to the child during the early stages of development.
Children who experience extreme stress during their early childhood stages tend to develop cognitive and behavioral difficulties. These effects often extend into a child’s later development and performance at school. Children raised in poverty often achieve lower level of education compared to their counterparts raised in middle-class families due to reduced ability to learn in school. Early childhood education should also be accompanied by effective healthcare delivery. Good nutrition, consistent care from family members and constant encouragement of a child often assist children to perform quite well in school. A good foundation during the early stages of a child has been known to make the difference during adulthood and also opens up better chances for other subsequent generations.
For any government, organization or community that aims at achieving high return on investments so that it can offer education, there is need to prioritize healthy social, cognitive, and emotional development of children. This can be attained by incorporating proper education with good health nutrition, water and sanitation in order to bring up children in a holistic manner. Governments should invest in ECD programs to provide the essential base of learning of children during their first critical eight years. By so doing, achieving a prosperous and healthy society will be quite easy (Blackburn, 2010).
In conclusion, it can be seen that early childhood education is an integral part of the learning process that policy makers and implementers cannot ignore. The roles played by the early childhood education program are fundamental in setting the right pace in education.