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Early childhood education

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Early childhood education (ECE) is a pedagogical approach to cover the education of children from the period from birth to six years of age.


What is Early Childhood Education?

According to NAEYC (National Association for the Education of Young Children), early childhood 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 care-giver, this term is used to denote education by someone other than these the parent or primary care-giver. 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 are often used with "early childhood education" are "early childhood learning," "early care," and "early education." 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.


Early childhood education or learning focus on children learning through play.

There are different developmental domains of children:

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.


Theory and curriculum

Many educational philosophies circulate through the field.

Some professionals hold to a behaviorist theory as developed by John B. Watson, B. F. Skinner and Edward Thorndike. Others hold to the maturationist theory popularized by Jacques Rousseau and Maria Montessori. Stage theories such as those of Sigmund Freud and Erik Erikson are used to look at social and emotional development.


Currently early childhood teacher education programs teach a mix of theories dominated by the constructivism (learning theory) theory as put forth by Jean Piaget and Lev Vygotsky.

Behaviorist ideas dominate direct instruction methods.

Constructivist ideas dominate curricula like High/Scope and The Creative Curriculum.

While maturational theory is the underpining for Montessori.




"Head Start" program

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. Teachers 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.

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. 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.


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