When to Start a Child in Early Learning Centre?

Table of Contents
    Add a header to begin generating the table of contents

    The National Association for the Education of Young Children External link (NAEYC) defines "early childhood" occurring before eight. During this period, a child goes through the most rapid phase of growth and development. Their brains develop faster than at any other point in their lives, so these years are critical.

    The foundations for their social skills, self-esteem, perception of the world, and moral outlook are established during these years and the development of cognitive skills.

    Early childhood education is encouraged to develop and nurture all these important foundations, and trends show that parents increasingly recognize this. In fact, according to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), enrollment in prekindergarten-level education has risen from 96,000 to over 1 million in the last 30 years.

    The United States Department of Education does not mandate early childhood education. Elementary and secondary education is all that is legally required for students, though early childhood education is doubtlessly a fundamental stage of learning.

    Early childhood education is a term that refers to the period from a child's birth to when they enter kindergarten, according to Dr. Jessica Alvarado, academic program director for the BA in Early Childhood Development at National University.

    According to Alvarado, it is an important time in children's lives because they first learn how to interact with others, including peers, teachers, and parents, and develop interests that will stay with them throughout their lives.

    But Alvarado says it's a common misperception that early childhood education is only about learning basic skills.

    "It's so much more than that," she says. "It's a time when children learn critical social and emotional skills, and a partnership is formed between the child, their parents and the teacher. Then, when this is done successfully, it lays the groundwork for it to continue throughout the child's education."

    Nations around the world are becoming aware of the importance of early childhood education as well. UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) is an international governing body whose mission is "to contribute to the building of peace, the eradication of poverty, sustainable development, and intercultural dialogue through education." 

    Ages And Stages

    Depending upon your child's age, learning style, and personality, your child will have different needs. The first five years are especially crucial for physical, intellectual, and social-emotional development. Keep your child's personality and age in mind when looking for child care experiences and activities. The following pages provide insight into a child's developmental stages from birth through fourteen years.

    Infants and toddlers

    Research has shown that what is going on in babies' and young children's minds is much more complex and sophisticated than their outward behaviour reveals. Early learning occurs on two levels: the growth of knowledge that is visible and apparent – language learning, for example, and learning about how objects work – and the growth of implicit learning, which is harder to observe.

    Unfortunately, many of the strikingly competent and insightful things in young children's minds are not transparent in their behaviour. Because of this, the cognitive abilities of young children are easily underestimated. 

    These research findings need to be part of the core knowledge that influences how care and education professionals support young children's learning. In the past, the prevalent belief that children are "concrete" thinkers – they cannot deal with abstraction or reason hypothetically – led educators to focus on simple, descriptive activities and miss opportunities to explore cause and effect, theories of numbers, and statistical probability.

    Instead, educators can support the growth of these cognitive abilities – for example, by using an abundance of child-directed language during social interaction, by playing sorting and counting games (for example, while stacking blocks), by putting words to why somebody looks sad, and by exploring together what happens when objects collide. These and other shared activities build on understandings that young children are implicitly developing.

    Developmental stages

    As your child grows, you may find yourself searching for clues to her behaviour. As a parent, you may hear the words "developmental stages." This is just another way of saying your child is moving through a certain time period in the growing-up process. At times, she may be fascinated with her hands, her feet, and her mouth. As she grows, she may get into everything. Lock your doors and cabinets, and take a deep breath during those exploration years! Then there will be an age when independence is all she wants. At every stage, what she needs is your love, understanding, and time.

    Learning styles

    Children learn in many different ways. Each child has his way of learning—some learn visually, others through touch, taste, and sound. Watch a group of children, and you'll understand at once what this means. One child will sit and listen patiently; another cannot wait to move and count beads. Another wants you to show her the answer over and over. Children also learn in different ways depending on their developmental stage. One thing we know is all children love to learn new things by exploring and discovering. In addition, children love to solve problems during play and in daily activities.

    Look for a child care provider who understands children's learning styles and includes reading, learning numbers, art activities, rhyming, and problem-solving in your child's daily activities. Also, find out how your provider encourages your child to understand and benefit from daily activities and experiences.

    Age-appropriate use of technology can enhance learning.

     In 2016, the US Department of Education and Department of Health and Human Services issued a policy brief on early learning and educational technology, which laid out four principles for using technology with learners ages 2 to 8.

    The Departments' guiding principles are:

    • "Technology—when used appropriately—can be a tool for learning.
    • Technology should be used to increase access to learning opportunities for all children.
    • Technology may be used to strengthen relationships among parents, families, early educators, and young children.
    • Technology is more effective for learning when adults and peers interact or co-view with young children."

    What are young children learning? 

    You and your family have a vital role in what your child learns in these early years.

    Self and relationships

    From you and your family, your child learns that she's loved and important. First, she learns trust – for example, 'I know you'll be there if I fall over. Next, she starts learning to understand her own needs, thoughts, feelings, likes and dislikes. Eventually, family relationships teach her about getting on with other children and grown-ups.

    Language and communication

    When you talk and listen with your child and read and sing together, you're helping him learn about language, written and spoken communication, and conversation skills like taking turns and listening.

    Space, place and environment

    At home with you, your child learns about her own size and shape – for example, 'I'm bigger than our stool but not as big as our table'. She also learns about her place in her community and her influence on the world around her. For example, 'My home is in this street, the park is down the road, and my friend lives in a different street', or 'The plants grew because I helped to water them'.

    Health and physical fitness

    When it comes to healthy eating and physical activity, you're a key role model for your child. For example, if you choose to have an apple rather than a snack bar for morning tea, your child is more likely to do the same. If you go for a walk rather than watching the TV, your child learns that exercise is a good, fun way to spend time together.

    Numeracy, literacy, handwriting and music

    You help your child build early numeracy skills with everyday counting – for example, 'How many bears are on the bed?' or 'Can you put all the red pegs into this basket?' Or you can sing nursery rhymes with your child that include counting.

    And your child develops early literacy through reading and storytelling with you, playing simple sound and letter games like listening for words that begin with the same sound, and looking at pictures, letters and words in the environment – for example, on signs and in catalogues.

    Your child's handwriting skills develop when you encourage him to draw, scribble and write. For example, if you're writing a card or a shopping list, you could give your child some paper and a pencil so he can join in. 'Writing' also helps your child understand the connection between letters and spoken sounds.

    Singing with your child, putting on music for her to dance to, giving her musical instruments to play (homemade is just fine), and finding dress-up clothes for her to use are all great ways to get her started learning about music drama and dance.

    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.

    Scroll to Top