Benefits of Early Childhood Education
More and more research is showing that quality early education opportunities have lifelong benefits not only for those children, but for society in general. By the time a child is just 5 years of age, the brain has undergone 85% of its development. That is a relatively short window of opportunity to provide the best environment for as much learning and growth as possible.
Why is early childhood education so important?
Numerous researchers have looked from the scientific standpoint of brain development to learn more about how children’s brains develop. They continually find the same answer – that brain development is on overdrive during the years before typical schooling of K-12. Even researchers who study socioeconomic impacts of early childhood education find that the benefits of quality programs are far reaching – to the economy, workforce, and beyond. Students who have access to early childhood education:
- Do better in elementary school
- Graduate high school with better grades
- Have higher test scores
- Go on to college or another avenue of education or training
- Have a stronger social support system as adults
- Have higher incomes by the time they are in their middle ages
- Have a lower likelihood of being incarcerated for crimes
Early childhood education is a proactive approach to addressing problems that are often seen much later – when the changes needed are more complicated and challenging. Just like preparing your vehicle before a road trip, taking steps before there is a problem can make for a much better journey.
What types of early childhood education are available and work best?
The research is conclusive that opportunities for early childhood education are vitally important to preparing children not only for school, but for life. There are, however, many different ways that early childhood education can take shape that can all be effective at helping children succeed.
Early childhood education options are not equal throughout communities, and many are trying to focus their energies on families who have fewer resources. The lower the family income and grade level or academic success that parents have, the lower the likelihood that their children will be able to find the early education resources needed. People living in poverty or in poor neighborhoods just don’t have access to enrichment programs and engaging daily activities as easily as some in other demographics. This is why programs like Head Start target low-income families to serve them with resources and tools for early childhood education during those crucial first five years.
Other community based programs also show positive impacts on families. Classes where moms bring their toddlers to meet and play with other toddlers in a slightly more formal setting can give these children opportunities to learn the foundations of social cues. Moms can also learn from the wisdom of other moms, and gain ideas for making more purposeful playtime at home with their kids.
Parents who are concerned about their young children’s early childhood education have many options.
- Head Start and other social programs aimed at providing support and tools for childhood education
- Community education based early childhood learning groups and settings
- Church based parent and child classes
- Quality pre-K programs available for ages 3-5
- Daycares with educational components that build on core skills needed
- Community involvement as a family, taking part in various activities of the environment on a regular and positive basis (attending museums, parks, zoos, concerts, and any other age appropriate activity that engages your child)
- Story times at libraries
- Music enrichment programs for tots
- Early intervention programs for kids with disabilities, learning, or behavioral challenges
The goal of early childhood education is not that all children between birth and five years of age attend a similar classroom setting that looks exactly the same. The goal, instead, is to make sure that all children ages birth to five years have regular and consistent opportunities for enriching and engaging activities, regardless of income or family structure. These activities and opportunities should include time for reading, exploring outside, imaginative play, engaging play with adults, engaging play with peers, and participating and experiencing new things. Early childhood education of many forms is one of the most important investments that can be made in a child’s future.