Early education is a key aspect of early childhood, because it sets the tone for the development of a child in all spheres of life – emotionally, physically, intellectually and psychologically. Indeed, during the critical period of early childhood or infancy, children’s minds are like sponges, and absorb information at rates that exceed those during any other life-phase. Thus, it is important to take advantage of this developmental stage, and to equip children with as many skills as possible. Early education (in the form of, for example, playgroups) allows for the introduction of such skills and lessons. The benefits of early education are both short-term and long-term, and lay the groundwork for the trajectory of all forms of development during both childhood and adult-life.
- Passion for lifelong learning
The way in which skills and lessons are taught as forms of early education should be innovative, engaging and entertaining, so that learning becomes an enjoyable activity from the get-go. This means that learning will carry positive connotations from an early age, and children will be encouraged to take new opportunities to learn, and perhaps to seek out learning themselves.
It will also give them the tools to learn effectively and in meaningful ways, that will come in use for their future studies and academic lives at school, university and beyond. This ‘thirst’ for learning needs to be fostered as soon as possible, and if early education is delivered with verve and vigour, then education will be valued in the same vein. Indeed, interest in various aspects of education (such as reading, discovery, exploring nature and the development of the imagination) takes shape now.
- Learning through experience
One of the best ways to learn in early education settings is through real-life experience. For example, instead of explaining what good manners are, early education teachers can roleplay with toddlers, so that they learn how to interact. This is when play becomes important.
Furthermore, although parents or caregivers are the most influential people in their children’s lives, the playgroup or preschool setting allows a fresh perspective regarding the value of education. This is especially so, since attending day-care, crèche or playgroup revolves so much around learning in fun and exciting ways. It sets the tone for how they experience education for the rest of their lives, and should not be underestimated. In addition, it shows children at an early age that their parents care about and prioritise their infants’ education, and that they should as well.
Yet another benefit of early education is that it teaches the importance of respect. It is at this critical age where infants need to learn both to respect themselves and to respect others. More than this, they also learn to respect things around them – resources, objects, nature and their immediate and non-immediate surroundings. Indeed, this is how they learn that they are a part of the world, and that they have a responsibility to respect it and all that is held within it. This is a perfect setting for children to understand the meaning of respect, because it is primarily a sharing environment where etiquette, consideration and courtesy are learnt and internalised naturally.