The years before a child reaches kindergarten are among the most critical in his or her life and parents need to be committed to providing the support that their infant children need to prepare them to succeed later in school.
These early years, especially the first three years of life, are very important for building the baby’s brain. Everything she or he sees, touches, tastes, smells or hears helps to shape the brain for thinking, feeling, moving and learning.
Babies learn rapidly from the moment of birth. They grow and learn best when responsive and caring parents and guardians give them affection, attention and stimulation, in addition to good nutrition, proper health care and protection.
It is therefore crucial that parents in the low income settings, see the need to break the cycle of poverty and poor performanances at school, by indulging in activities that will allow their children equal opportunity at school.
Encouraging children to play and explore, helps them to learn and develop socially, emotionally, physically and intellectually. This helps children get ready for school.
Children learn how to behave (socially and emotionally) by imitating the behaviour of those closest to them. At these young ages, children are like sponges, soaking up everything around them. The way they are spoken to is imporatant as well as the way adults behave around them, as that is what they will learn.
All children grow and develop in similar patterns, but each child develops at her or his own pace. Every child has her or his own interests, temperament, style of social interaction and approach to learning.
Parents need to make their child’s education a priority, if they want them to be successful during their school lives and go on to achieve successes later in life.
Reading and pre reading activities support children’s understanding of letters, letter sound and the blending of words.
Early childhood education is therefore very importan,t as it gives children a jump-start on education for their kindergarten and elementary years. A child who attends an early childhood education program has increased cognitive skills at the beginning of kindergarten.
They also have the benefit of relating to other students, which can increase their social skills and make them more socially competent in their preschool, kindergarten and school-age years.
How important is preschool?
"There's increasing evidence that children gain a lot from going to preschool," says Parents advisor Kathleen McCartney, PhD, dean of Harvard Graduate School of Education, in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
"At preschool, they become exposed to numbers, letters, and shapes. And, more importantly, they learn how to socialize -- get along with other children, share, contribute to circle time."
Statistics show that a majority of kids attend at least one year of preschool: According to the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER), more than two-thirds of 4-year-olds and more than 40 percent of 3-year-olds were enrolled in a preschool in 2005.
"Children who attend high-quality preschool enter kindergarten with better pre-reading skills, richer vocabularies, and stronger basic math skills than those who do not," says NIEER director W. Steven Barnett, PhD.
"Every child should have some sort of group experience before he starts kindergarten," says Amy Flynn, director of New York City's Bank Street Family Center. Music and gymnastics classes are great, but what preschools do that less formal classes don't is teach kids how to be students.
Your child will learn how to raise her hand, take turns, and share the teacher's attention. What's more, she'll learn how to separate from Mommy, who often stays in a music or gym class.
All of this makes for an easier transition to kindergarten. "Kindergarten teachers will tell you that the students who are ready to learn are those who come into school with good social and behavior-management skills," Smith says.
In fact, educators have so recognized the importance of giving kids some form of quality early education that about 40 states now offer state-funded pre-K programs.
Early Child Hood Education
What's the difference between childcare and preschool?
Childcare centers are generally an option for working parents who need their children to be taken care of during the day; centers accept babies as well as toddlers and are full-time, full-year programs.
Preschool refers to an early-childhood educational class for 3 and 4 year olds. Many offer a part-time schedule (eg. a few hours a day, two to five times a week) as well as full-day care.
The terms 'day care' and 'pre school' are often used interchangeably. A childcare center with experienced, well-trained teachers and stimulating activities offers children similar advantages to a preschool.