Children can have so much fun and enjoyment learning alongside and mixing with other children. Sometimes also its good for us as parents to have a break and to know that our infant, toddler or preschooler is in good hands.
Early childhood education services provide children with experiences they might not have access to at home, including access to specialised preschool materials and equipment.
Of course early childhood education is not a replacement for the role of parents as parents are children's first and most important educators.
Early childhood education centres and home-based ECE services are there to support the role of parents and family in raising their child.
Teaching approaches in early childhood education
Some people think that early childhood education in NZ is about the structured teaching of numbers, reading, writing, etc, to prepare children for school
In some early childhood programmes it may mean this, but in most programmes the philosophy is that children learn through play with the guidance and support of adults.
Any performance advantages that a child has because of structured teaching before age-5 usually wash out in later years.
The best start to a formal school education you can give a young child is to help the child to learn to develop independence, along with developing thinking and problem solving skills.
Such learning can happen in early childhood programmes as well as at home and in the community too! An early childhood centre provides a fraction of all that a young child needs - which is why parents and everyone in the community also play a role in children's early learning.
Things you can do to encourage a young child to develop independence include: learning to make his/her own breakfast, tidying up his/her own toys after play, carrying his her own bag, and learning to dress and undress without help.
For developing thinking and problem solving skills:
- provide puzzles for the child to practice on and add harder puzzles as the child's skill develops
- ask the child questions and together chat about possible solutions and answers, for instance how does a butterfly grow inside such a tiny cocoon?
- support the child to persevere when a task is proving hard and affirm the importance of practice as being important for obtaining success.
- help the child to expand his/her knowledge through hands-on activities and experiences. Provide lots of play-based learning opportunities, lots of discussion, fun, and engaging in a broad range of activities in the community, through travel, shopping, going on nature walks, watching a building being constructed, etc.
How to Go About Selecting an Early Childhood Centre or Service
My ECE makes available an excellent checklist to assist parents in their decision-making process and to compare what services offer and which one is the highest quality for their child - click here to go to My ECE.
For a service to benefit your child educationally, what you want to see is that the service provides an educationally stimulating environment, while not being too overwhelming. Also it should extend on what you can provide for your child. For example, if you live in an apartment building then an early childhood service that provides opportunity for contact with farm and native animals, outdoor physical play, painting and sand play would be one that would be enriching for your child.
- Develop strategies to mediate the effects of this (Example 1: If the centre requires you to pay for and use hours of childcare that you don't need, then stay with your child at the service for those hours instead of leaving your child so that if your child can't be with the family you can go to your child. Example 2: If your family traditions and expectations for behaviour, for example to take shoes off at the door before entering, are not recognised at the service discuss and guide your child to understand that what is expected at the service is not acceptable at home);
- Consider withdrawing from the service and looking into other options, for example an arranged childcare exchange with another family or taking your child to work with you if possible. Read more about family based solutions by clicking here.
Does Going to an Early Childhood Service Make Children Brighter?
A child's home-background and home learning environment is something that is important to take account of when determining how much benefit is gained.
- If the early childhood education programme is better resourced and the learning experiences provided for children are better than what can be provided for at home then the child will be advantaged academically.
- But if the quality of the early childhood education programme is lower than that of the quality of the child's home learning environment, the child is not likely to be greatly advantaged by participating, Family background factors, including parents' education level and home learning environment has a much greater influence on children's development and achievement. Having said that, every parent and every child would want to experience a quality of ECE at least equivalent to the quality of their home setting.
Also, what a lot of people do not realise is that any learning gains a child makes by attending early childhood education can wash out really quickly depending on the primary school the child later attends and its quality.
Should you be interested in more in-depth information on any topic then do a word search on our ChildForum website for more.
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