Early education is education that is taught to children in their early years, before they are old enough to enter nursery school. This form of learning plays an essential role in influencing the trajectory of children’s development. Indeed, early childhood is the most impressionable stage of human life, and infants take in more information in these years than in any other period. While early education can be taught either at home by parents, caregivers or other family members, or in a preschool or playgroup environment by teachers, this article focuses on the latter. The advantages of early education in such a setting are numerous.
It is key for children to learn and to experience socialising and interacting with other humans who are not part of their immediate family. The sooner this type of engagement commences, the more opportunity there is for the development of sound social skills. Socialisation in early education environments (such as in crèches or playgroups) provides the perfect setting for such interactions, because they are safe, supervised and allow for contact with other children of the same age.
Up until this point in early childhood, infants predominantly socialise with their parents or caregiver. Thus, the beginning of socialisation with other children marks the beginning of relationships with peers and non-family members – this is an important transition and an important part of early education, because it teaches children the ability to relate to others, and lays the groundwork for friendship formation which will develop as they grow older.
Indeed, the sooner such socialisation starts, the better. This is because the socialisation process assists in building self-confidence and in tackling shyness. If this form of interaction occurs too late, the development of social skills is negatively affected.
- The idea of cooperation
Another key advantage of early education is the introduction of cooperation as a necessary part of life. When children interact with teachers and peers, they learn that goals, objectives and the acquisition of resources cannot be obtained or achieved without teamwork and cooperation. Thus, experiences such as learning to share, compromising and negotiating, taking turns, being patient and persevering are all important lessons that will later translate into the ability to forming and maintaining meaningful relationships with other people. Moreover, these experiences are all facilitated by adults who have the experience to guide these interactions in proactive and healthy ways, so that children get the most out of them.
The lesson of cooperation in early education is particularly necessary for a first-born or only child, because he or she may not otherwise experience having to share or compromise with other children. This can be a tough lesson to learn – thus, it should be taught as soon as possible.
- Fostering holistic development
Holistic development is a method of child-educating that emphasises building a solid basis for physical, social, mental, psychological and emotional growth, which will guide children throughout their lives. Early education teachers focus on recognising the particular areas in which individual children require support, and then work to build curricula to address these needs. Peers are also pivotal in this regard, because they tend to be accommodating, supportive and inclusive.