Early childhood education has been thrown into the spotlight recently, based on President Obama’s plea for high-quality preschool for all children in this year’s State of the Union address. There have been dozens of articles touting the merits of education in the early years and many others focusing on the minuses of early child-hood education.
No one can deny that a lot of important learning happens in the first years of a child’s life. Really good early education is linked to significant long-term effects in a person’s life. Some say that students who participate in preschool go to college at higher rates, have higher income, and even go to jail at lower rates.
Honestly, it doesn’t take an expert study to figure out that preschool can help your kid prepare for kindergarten and therefore prepare for the rest of his/her education. The benefits of early childhood education are irrefutable:
1. A formal learning environment: It’s natural for all kids to learn. They learn from the words you say and even from watching TV. Preschool makes sure they’re not just learning from you or from television; they create interesting learning opportunities through thematic and structured learning. Kids in preschool do science experiments, draw, and take trips to the local firehouse. This means they are learning not only the abstract concept of firehouse, but the concrete aspect—that the firehouse really exists.
2. Routine, routine, routine: Kids thrive on routine. Repetition helps them learn and comforts them. How many times have you watched your child’s favorite video? Hundreds. You are bored, but they are not. Good preschool classes have routines that children adore. Little Logan walks in and grabs his name tag; he puts it up on the board under his daily chore, then he puts his jacket in his nook, etc. This routine will eventually be carried out at home, and soon, he will be picking up his own clothes and doing chores. Further, it’s your kid’s own little world apart from you, where he/she gets to be comfy because of routine and to learn to do his own thing. It can feel a little weird that your little lady or guy is in his own world but this is a kind of learning that needs to happen.
3. Building relationships: There is a lot of social learning in good preschool environments. Kids get to play a lot and therefore learn how to share and take turns. They also develop relationships with adults that are not their parents. This can help with learning about boundaries and discipline. It also helps them figure out what expectations teachers will have of them in the future.
4. Early prevention: Everyone has something they can work on. Attending preschool can help identify a child’s shortcomings early on and set you on the path of helping him/her work them out early; this is especially important if children have learning disabilities.
If you cannot afford pre-school or have an opposition to it, there are things you can do at home to simulate the pre-school environment.
Create a stimulating home environment: You can read to your child every day in order to increase vocabulary. You can join playgroups or set up play dates to foster social learning. You can also visit the museum and make a project out of it by having your child draw a picture and tell a story. Carve out time each day for an art project; cook, clean, engage with you child, and most importantly, have a routine.
Whatever you choose, make sure that your child is enjoying his/her time and that you are as well.
Thank you to Sandy Jimenez for this article.