Early childhood education is a necessity when it comes to having a well-developed child. Education happens in many ways through a school system as well as the work that is done by parents at home. Developing a love for learning early is important so that the child looks forward to the learning process. Learning can take place in numerous ways and should be adapted when needed to a child’s learning speed and abilities.
The Clover Park School District has an Early Learning Program that “provides enriching experiences that help children learn and develop in a number of ways. The early childhood day is focused on building skills that are important for all children. Our teachers plan meaningful daily lessons that encourage children to develop and practice behaviors such as persistence, empathy, problem solving and thinking skills.”
Some strategy to increase learning include:
- Playing: Children do not need to know that they are learning to be able to retain information. For example, playing with toy cars in the sandbox can help with motor skills, colours and numbers. Playing with others can teach sharing and communication skills too.
- Observing: As Yogi Bera supposedly once said, “You can observe a lot by just watching.” My parents occasionally went to visit friends and play Monopoly. I went a long and just watched. By the time I finished first grade, I held my own against my best friends who were two and four years older. In the sixth grade during recess, kids were allowed to play chess. I soon learned the basics and enjoyed the competition. Studying your opponent is a great way to learn, also.
- Asking the child to teach an adult or a younger child: If you ask a child to do something, they might be shy to do it or feel self-conscious, but if they are asked to show a younger child or teach an adult something, then it changes the situation and can give the same desired result.
- Give praise where it is due: Something as simple as a good job, nice try or a sticker on a piece of paper let children know that they are doing alright. Even when a child does not master what is being taught, they can be encouraged to persevere. Perseverance is an important life skill that can stay with a child throughout their whole life. Never make a child feel like quitting. Find the positive in the situation, instead. For example, if a child is asked to count to ten, and gets mixed up a few times, instead of telling the child that he/she is wrong, they can be told that they gave it a good effort, and then point out which numbers were mixed up. When I was in the first grade I had piano lessons. Each time I returned for the next lesson I played the songs I was supposed to master. Perfect or not my teacher would peel off a little sticker and place it on the page of the song. It felt like an accomplishment and each week I improved.
Early childhood education can be extremely rewarding for the child, educator and parents because it is setting up a foundation that is meant to last a lifetime. This foundation must be nurtured and built carefully to allow it to set well. Think of it as layering a dessert, each layer of the dessert represents something (cake, fruit, pudding, whipped cream etc.). Children have many layers too: their personality, emotions, communications, passions etc. All these layers combined create a well-rounded child. Rewards include watching a child learn new things and the joy that it brings to them, their educator and their family when they go home and are happy to show off their new skills or tell about their day. It also includes the learning of skills that will be useful their whole life. These skills include learning teamwork, patience and socialization skills. When children are happy with their school and learning experiences, they will seek to continue to learn.
Bright Water Waldorf School in Seattle on Capitol Hill says, their kindergarten has play at its heart. “Through longer periods of free play, children develop social skills and creative problem-solving, such as how to build a silk-and-wood fort together, or how to dress a doll to keep it warm. Play is balanced with more structured activities, such as watercolor painting, felting, preparing a snack, and counting games, all in a predictable rhythm. Teachers strive to show behaviours and speech worthy of a child’s imitation. These activities and new family relationships enrich a child’s young life, and build a bridge for the whole family between home and school.”
When considering whether a child should receive early childhood education, please investigate your leaning options. The needs of a child and the rewards which will be reaped make it worthwhile for the child and their family, not to mention the educators that they interact with while attending school. In the right learning environment, a child can excel and this excellence can last a lifetime.