High quality childcare provides direct benefits to children in their early years. Not only is exposure to early learning through play essential for brain development in the first five years of life, but when children are provided with high quality stimulation, interactions and learning programs; their development is positively affected.
The benefits of early childhood education are observed not only through success in formal schooling but also in a child’s social skills, health and wellbeing, as well as higher rates of employment once they become adults.
Social and Emotional Development
During the early years of development from birth to five, children are not only developing their motor skills and learning to communicate, but they are also developing their social and emotional skills that they will use for life. These skills include how to get along with others, how to recognise and manage their own feelings, and cultivating their sense of self. These abilities are key components for children’s future successes in school and in life.
High quality early learning supports children in developing these skills through building respectful and reciprocal relationships with children and families, meeting children’s needs, providing opportunities for turn taking and discussing and exploring emotions.
The development of mathematical skills begins in infancy and continues to be developed through everyday opportunities in early childhood. Children’s skills in numeracy as toddlers and preschoolers are predictive of their later mathematics abilities. Studies have found that children who start ahead in mathematics will generally stay ahead.
Early learning services that support children in the development of mathematical understandings through playing numeracy games, exploring measurement in cooking and sensory play experiences, using song and movement and finding opportunities to explore maths in everyday routines will provide better outcomes for those children for years to come.
Learning to read is affected by a child having phonological awareness, oral language, and awareness of print. When these foundational skills are lacking, children are more likely to be poor readers in the long term. The development of early literacy skills happens through talking, reading, singing, dramatic play, playing.
Children’s literacy skills are developed in high quality childcare settings that value exploring language through books, rhyme, conversations and engagement with print. These services provide the best opportunities for children to develop their literacy skills. Recent research by Macquarie University also found that childcare services that had higher qualified staff, with lower ratios, were able to offer children one on one conversations directly increased and improved children’s language development.
Parents often believe that a child’s ability to count to ten, recite their ABCs, or spell their name, demonstrates their superior literacy and numeracy skills. However, it is crucial for parents to understand the difference between memory and repetition, and true literacy and numeracy skills. For example, a child’s ability to count to ten is usually memory recall, however their ability to count how many eggs are in the egg carton and add them to the number of eggs in a bowl is a demonstration of calculation and arithmetic. A child’s ability to recite the letters in their name may also be using memory, yet their ability to recognise the letters from their name in a printed word containing some or all of those letters will be a demonstration of literacy skills. A high quality early learning setting or childcare service will be able to identify the differences, the stage that a child is at, and develop programs around that child’s needs to further develop relevant skills.
Creating a lifelong love of learning
A high-quality education and care service not only provides care for children but also cultivates a lifelong love of learning in children. Through play, children are actively involved in learning experiences. This active involvement builds children’s understandings of concepts as well as their creative thinking and enquiry based skills that are essential for lifelong learning.
Early learning services develop this love of learning by providing experiences that are multi-sensory and allow children’s choice, engagement and input while catering to their individual interests.
The benefits of high quality early childhood education extend beyond the children to families and our society as a whole. Everyone benefits when we invest in high quality early years education and care!