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According to NAEYC (National Association for the Education of Young Children), Early Childhood Education spans the human life from birth to age 8. Infants and toddlers experience life more holistically than any other age group. Social, emotional, cognitive, language, and physical lessons are not learned separately by very young children.Adults who are most helpful to young children interact in ways that understand that the child is learning from the whole experience, not just that part of the experience to which the adult gives attention.
Although early childhood education does not have to occur in the absence of the parent or primary caregiver, this term is sometimes used to denote education by someone other than these the parent or primary caregiver. Both research in the field and early childhood educators view the parents as an integral part of the early childhood education process. Early childhood education takes many forms depending on the theoretical and educational beliefs of the educator or parent.
Other terms that are often used interchangeably with "early childhood education" are "early childhood learning," "early care," and "early education." Much of the first two years of life are spent in the creation of a child's first "sense of self" or the building of a first identity. Because this is a crucial part of children's makeup-how they first see themselves, how they think they should function, how they expect others to function in relation to them, early care must ensure that in addition to carefully selected and trained caregivers, links with family, home culture, and home language are a central part of program policy. If care becomes a substitute for, rather than a support of, family, children may develop a less-than-positive sense of who they are and where they come from because of their child care experience.
Early childhood education or learning focus on children learning through play.
There are different developmental domains of children which all relate to each other:
- Physical development - Concerning the physical growth and the development of both gross(eg. walking) and fine motor(eg. finger movement) control of the body.
- Perception and sensory development - How a child functions using the senses and the ability to process the information gained.
- Communication and language development - Using visual and sound stimuli, especially in the acquisition of language, also in the exchange of thoughts and feelings.
- Cognitive development - Concerning how the individual thinks and react.
- Emotional Development - Concerning children's increasing awareness and control of their feelings and how does he react to these feelings in a given situation.
- Social Development - Concerning the child's identity, their relationship with others, and understanding their place within a social environment.
Recent studies on infant brain development show most of a person's neurons are formed from ages 0-8. If a young child doesn't receive sufficient nurturing, nutrition, parental/caregiver interaction, and stimulus during this crucial period, the child may be left with a developmental deficit that hampers his or her success in preschool,kindergarten' and beyond.
Worst-case scenarios such as those found in Russian and Romanian orphanges demonstrate how the lack of proper social interaction and development of attachement affect the developing child.[How to reference and link to summary or text] Children must receive attention and affection from their caregivers to develop in a healthy manner.Template:POV-statement
Theory and curriculum
A wide array of educational philosophies circulate through the field. Some professionals adhere to more of a behaviorist theory as developed by John B. Watson, B. F. Skinner and Edward Thorndike. Others hold to the more unstructured maturationist theory popularized by Jacques Rousseau and Maria Montessori. Additionally, stage theories such as those of Sigmund Freud and Erik Erikson are used to look at social and emotional development.
Each philosophy forms the undergirding theory behind its own selection of school curriculum used throughout the world.
Behaviorist ideas dominate direct instruction methods (like DISTAR). Constructivist ideas dominate curricula like High/Scope and The Creative Curriculum. While maturational theory is the underpining for Montessori. A mix of maturationist and constructionist ideas supply the base theory for the Reggio Emilia approach.
The curriculum in a "Head Start" program is designed to meet the needs of each child. One goal is to build self-esteem that is seen as necessary to future success in school. Staff encourage self-confidence, curiosity, and self-discipline. A variety of learning experiences are designed to meet the children's needs in the various areas of development. Staff should work as a team to implement the new government issued curriculum and teach children, based on their interest and in a fun way.Template:POV-statement Parent involvement should be the heart of the program. Preschool children must be provided with early literacy, awareness and intervention in order to perform better during the later years. This will lead the to success once they enter schools, and put them on the right track by being well prepared with the right and appropriate equipment.
The philosophy of early childhood education is largely child-centered education. Therefore, there is a focus on the importance of play. Play provides children with the opportunity to actively explore, manipulate, and interact with their environment.
It encourages children to investigate, create, discover and motivate them to take risks and add to their understanding of the world. It challenges children to achieve new levels of understanding of events, people and the environment by interacting with concrete materials.
Hands-on activities create authentic experiences in which children begin to feel a sense of mastery over their world and a sense of belonging and understanding of what is going on in their environment. This philosophy follows with Piaget's ideals that children should actively participate in their world and various environments so as to ensure they are not 'passive' learners but 'little scientists' who are actively engaged.
Play is a very important and special part of childhood. It allows a child to experiment with the world around him and the emotional world inside him. To many it might seem like mere child's play but there is a lot of work going on behind the scene like skill building, problem solving, overcoming physical and mental challenges etc. Playing with products made especially for the preschool children helps a child in building self confidence, encourages independent learning and clears his concepts. For the development of their fine and large or gross motor movements, for the growth of the child's eye-hand coordination, it is extremely important for him to 'play' with the natural things around him. Sand/mud/clay and water play a very important part here.
Giving the child time and playing with him make him a confident human being. We as adults can enter his world of imagination and fantasy and let him control us. This generally helps in building his self confidence and he feels safe and secure with us. We tend to build his self esteem and morale when we give him time and attention. When a child realises that the things of his interest are important to us and that we appreciate his method of play and fun, he tends to get confident of himself. It also allows children to explore new friendships with those they interact with.
Providers of early childhood education go by many names:
Early Childhood Educational Professional
The teachers of early childhood education often hold the titles of early childhood professional, early childhood teacher, SmartSteps Parent Educator, early childhood educator, early childhood practitioner, early childhood provider, or early childhood caregiver. In addition, there are the following auxiliary positions:
- Aide in the public school system
- Author of children's books
- Child care teachers
- Children's art instructor
- Children's librarian
- Director of preschool or Head Start center
- Family child care providers
- Parenting Coach
- Preschool teacher
- Children's museum
- Elementary School Teacher
- Science Centres/Exploration and Discovery Museums
- Special Needs Educator
- Child care specialist
- Child life specialist
- Childhood Education Specialist
- Children's television broadcasting
- ESL facilitator
- Early interventionists
- Speech pathologists
- Play therapists
- Inclusion consultant
- Social worker
- Behavioural specialist
- Integration facilitator
- Guidance counselor
- licensed home day care providers
- Sunday School Teacher
- Herr, Judy. "Working with Young Children". Tinley Park, Illinois: The Goodheart-Willcox Company, Inc,2002. ISBN 1-56637822-2
- Meisels, Samuel J. (1995). Performance Assessment in Early Childhood Education: The Work Sampling System. Urbana, Illinois: ERIC Clearinghouse on Elementary and Early Childhood Education.
- Canadian daycare search and reviews
- Baby sign language
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