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The Difference Between Early Learning And Child Care

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    A child's early years are integral to their physical, emotional, behavioural, and cognitive development. From birth to age 8, children go through rapid phases of development and growth. They learn to talk, crawl, walk, play, learn, and behave. Since this development is so essential for a child's health and wellness, professionals devote careers to researching, monitoring, and helping children and their families.

    The differences in the fields of early childhood education vs. child development may not be obvious. People interested in learning more about the experiences and relationships that impact child development can consider pursuing an online Bachelor of Arts in Human Development and Family Studies degree with an Early Childhood Development track.

    Increasingly common, early childhood care plays an important role in children's development and provides valuable support to families with young children. It is therefore important to understand the impact of these services and to ensure their quality and accessibility.

    Early childhood education and childcare are not synonymous. However, as national and local awareness grows about the importance of the earliest years of a child's life in creating a strong foundation for future success, we must understand the difference between early childhood education and childcare.

    Certainly, there is a need in our country for working parents to find care for their children who are not old enough to go to elementary school, and thus the search for "daycare" and "child care" begins. We understand that quality care is important, and the baseline is safety. Anything above "safe" is considered to be a bonus.

    Both ECE and daycare generally cater to children ages 2-5, and while both teach and nurture the child while the parent is at work, preschool gives both the parent and child far more benefits and long-term, lasting effects. Why? The educational component!

    Definitions of Early Childhood Education and Child Development

    Early childhood education is the learning activity of children before elementary school. It includes any educational institutions children attend before kindergarten. Programs can be full time or part-time. They can include settings such as childcare centres, public preschools, early childhood educators' homes, and church nursery schools. 

    Early childhood education professionals can work as preschool teachers or childcare centre directors, among other occupations. Another common location is a child's home, with a nanny or babysitter.

    Early childhood education also refers to the learning experiences a young child goes through as they develop. Any activities that help a child gain social, physical, behavioural, or cognitive understanding are part of their education. This is where the overlap occurs in early childhood education vs. child development.

    Child development tracks children's physical, emotional, psychological, and cognitive growth. Professionals in this field can work in research, education, social work, or psychology. In addition, they study how families and communities can aid in the positive development of children and help create awareness through educational programs.

    Moreover, child development professionals implement prevention and intervention programs for childhood disabilities, congenital disabilities, and blood disorders.

    Early childhood services are one of the most important investments we can make in our children's future and the future of our community. Children with a strong foundation are better prepared for school, more productive workers, and healthier adults. Moreover, these children have benefited from early education no matter where they got it -- from parents, other family members or in a formal program. 

    Early education is not a replica of elementary school for birth to 5 sets. Having toddlers or preschoolers start rote memorisation of letters and numbers does not lead to optimal development.

    A child's work is play, and teachers understand that play and providing an early education paradigm and framework to it is what makes the difference between childcare and early education.

    It is not simply changing the language and calling everything "early education"; it is a matter of clarifying what we mean and using the right language so that people understand the significance of high quality early learning environments.

    Early Childhood Education vs. Child Development

    Even though experts in each field have the same overall goals, a closer look at early childhood education vs. child development reveals several key differences.

    The primary difference is that child development is a broader field that encompasses the development of children and adolescents. Experts examine relationships between family members, such as between parents and children.

    On the other hand, early childhood education provides young children with the best environment for effective education. Additionally, while early childhood education engages students in learning and development activities, child development roles can include conducting activities, observing children, and identifying and solving problems.


    As a result, child development professionals work in a wide range of settings, including healthcare facilities, while early childhood education professionals primarily work in childcare and school settings. As a result, child development career options may also be more varied.

    Early Childhood Education Careers

    Early childhood education experts focus on implementing tools to help students reach certain growth milestones, such as talking and walking. Professionals can work in the following roles:

    • Preschool teacher
    • Childcare teacher
    • Nanny
    • Babysitter
    • Childcare worker
    • Preschool director

    Directors of early childhood education facilities supervise children's activities. They help cultivate positive experiences that lead to growth and development. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), preschool and childcare centre directors earn a median annual salary of $48,210.

    Combining the long hours of childcare centres with the enriched learning environments of preschools and kindergartens, early learning centres are excellent combined care and educational option for many modern families. 

    With longer opening hours, the ability to accept children from birth through to five years old, with qualified early childhood specialists (including university-qualified early childhood teachers), early learning centres offer the best of both worlds.

    According to Liz Schembri, Head of Early Learning at Alive Mount Barker, the key benefit of early learning environments is that they incorporate the latest research in child development to create learning opportunities in everyday activities.

    "Because of this, it's important to ensure we're building connections to knowledge and skills as part of the inquiry in those early years to set our children up for life," she said.

    Another benefit of many early learning centres, like Alive, is that they are also co-located with a partner school, which can help with the transition from early learning to primary learning in one familiar environment. 

    "Because our Alive Catholic Early Learning Centre in Mount Barker is co-located with St Francis de Sales College, children and families will feel immediately welcome as part of the warm and intimate college community, which provides continuity and support through their transition from early learning to school," Gemma said.

    Each Alive Catholic Early Learning Centre is led by a Head of Early Learning who is a qualified teacher and has school leadership experience.

    "Owing to our experience in schools, we have a good understanding of the support children need to feel comfortable and excited about their transition into primary school," Gemma said.

    "Because we understand children's development, our dedicated staff design learning programs for each child from six months through to five years of age."

    Through ECE, a parent can expect:

    • Education is the foundation/core
    • Development of social skills
    • Development of critical thinking skills
    • An integrated structure, learning, and play
    • May require a child to be potty trained

    Child Development Careers

    Child development professionals study how students develop naturally. They supply resources for those who need help. They usually conduct research or study children in the following settings:

    • Schools
    • Childcare facilities
    • Hospitals
    • Nonprofit youth organisations
    • Treatment centres
    • Government agencies
    • In-home environments

    Specific careers include the following examples:

    • Certified family life educator
    • Certified family life specialist
    • Mental health counsellor
    • Substance abuse counsellor
    • Behavioural counsellor
    • Social worker
    • Community service manager

    According to the BLS, counsellors who work in human development and family studies careers earn a median annual salary of $46,240.

    Childcare centres provide regular full-time or part-time care in places specially designed for children from birth to five years.

    The benefit of childcare centres is that they are open from early morning until early evening to provide families with flexible times for pick up and drop off before and after daytime working hours.

    For parents who work irregular or unpredictable hours, some childcare centres also offer occasional care for families who need someone to look after their children every now and then, which can also be very handy.

    At daycare, a parent can generally expect:

    • The child learning to interact with other children their age
    • Either a group environment or a smaller setting, sometimes in a proprietor's home
    • Fundamental education like ABCs, etc.
    • Usually does not require a child to be potty-trained.

    Daycare services are primarily geared toward providing supervised care for your child. While they allow children to learn some social skills, they do not focus on learning and education as a primary goal, and there is often little structure throughout the day.

    While most daycare centres provide some education—teaching children their ABC's and 123's, ECE makes learning a primary focus. In addition to cognitive skills that will help each child continue into grade school, ECE teaches essential interpersonal and social skills. Many Pre-Kindergarten programs get children involved in the community, showing compassion and understanding. Developing these skills at an early age is crucial, as the brain develops fastest from birth to the age of five. Giving children the stimulation and attention they need at this critical stage will set them up for success as they develop and foster a joy of learning.

    Similarities Between Early Childhood Education and Child Development

    Research reveals that children who get an excellent education early are likely to be successful as adults. According to the National Education Association, children with a high-quality education are more likely to finish high school and then earn a high salary.

    When it comes to early childhood education vs. child development, professionals working in both fields share the goal of understanding how children grow and develop. They want children to be healthy, receive a quality education, and get the necessary tools to succeed in life.

    Early childhood education and child development experts are equally concerned with giving children safe environments for learning. They also want to offer essential resources to families who have children with disabilities, disorders, or diseases.


    Professionals in both fields aim to eliminate negative educational experiences and unhealthy parenting practices. They advocate for educated teachers and smaller class sizes that permit teachers to establish one-on-one relationships with students. They also recommend the consistent involvement of parents or legal guardians.

    Why is high-quality child care important for child development?

    High-quality child care can positively influence children's development and school readiness by providing valuable educational and social experiences. High-quality child care is characterised as: 

    • Having well-qualified, well-paid, stable staff, low child-adult ratios, and efficient management. 
    • Offering a program covering all aspects of child development (physical, motor, emotional, social, language and cognitive development).

    Research also shows that only high-quality provision can deliver well-being and appropriate development to young children. As an increasing number of mothers are in the workforce and most children ages 3 and older now attend a child care facility regularly, it has become critical that young children from all backgrounds have access to high-quality child care and early education. 

    Choosing the right type of care for your child

    When it comes to selecting the best arrangement for your family – regardless of your decision – Gemma believes there are various factors that families should consider.

    "Children respond well to consistency and routine, so it's helpful to make sure that children are going to see the same educators each day."

    "It's also important that the curriculum is personalised to meet the changing needs of each child, and that the centre's approach to learning is holistic – encompassing the cognitive, physical, social, emotional, and in our case, spiritual development, of your child." 

    "At Alive, our curriculum covers social and emotional learning, movement, STEM, numeracy, literacy, arts and expression and spirituality. With our relevant and dynamic curriculum, children enjoy a range of experiences and opportunities".

    "We provide young children with a quality education, which includes our commitment to proactive and effective relationships with both parents and their children."

    Liz Schembri from Alive (Mount Barker) said that at an early learning centre like Alive, everything it does is centred around supporting a child's development in this incredibly formative period of their life and shaping how they see themselves as learners – now and into the future.

    "At Alive, we focus on a child's social and emotional well-being as well as their brain development. Early learning is about understanding these major developmental milestones and tapping into those experiences and teachable moments in everyday life that will enable children to learn," she said.

    Here are some tips for what to consider when choosing the right centre for your child.
    1. Determine the type of childcare service you are looking for. ...
    2. Type of Education and Philosophy. ...
    3. Location of the childcare centre. ...
    4. Availability & Waiting List. ...
    5. Childcare Costs. ...
    6. Flexibility. ...
    7. Licencing and Registration.

    When choosing a childcare centre, you as the parent have the right to expect it will provide a safe, supportive place for your child's self-identity and awareness to grow. It's important that educators in your choice of centre value each child's individual interests and opinions and treat them with respect and love.

    A high-quality childcare center has a friendly and warm environment conducive to learning. Be sure to pick a daycare with clean and sanitary buildings and classrooms. Check their toys and learning materials to make sure they are safe and child-friendly.

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