Early education in the form of playgroups, pre-schools or other peer-group situations allows for infants to develop important skills during early childhood that will equip them for the rest of their lives. While there are various advantages to early education received both from parents and from early education teachers, the latter gives children their first opportunities to interact with other infants as opposed to with their immediate family members. Indeed, the skills that are developed at this critical age will determine how children go on to interact with others throughout their lives and into adulthood. Thus, the importance of early education of high quality is pivotal; if it of a high standard, then there are various benefits.
Since the early education environment is usually one of the first instances (if not the first instance) of children coming into contact with other children, they learn how to work in groups at a young age. Teamwork is an essential skill to have – from schooling to university to one’s career. The way in which children play and engage in problem-solving activities teaches children how to listen to each other’s contributions, ideas and viewpoints. Likewise, children learn to cooperate, accommodate each other, compromise and to think of outcomes for groups as opposed to thinking only about themselves. Through the process of teamwork, children learn to view each other equally, and learn to relate to others despite differences.
It is for these reasons that activities in early education environments are often structured around teamwork and cooperation. Indeed, teaching a child what it means to belong to a team and how to work within one will advance his or her social skills, and can make him or her more employable in the future.
When it comes to fostering resilience in children, this skill must be taught by both parents and by early education teachers – and it must be done while infants are still very young; otherwise, it can be difficult to develop later on. Resilience is built through providing secure, loving, consistent and just treatment to a child. If parents provide a warm and dependable social setting for the child, in which clearly communicated expectations and expected repercussions are established, then the infant will be able to deal adequately with his or her own feelings and experiences.
While these skills must be taught to children from their parents, early education teachers must create an appropriate setting in which infants can employ the skills learnt at home. These skills can then be translated into ‘real-life’ experiences which are made possible in the playgroup or preschool environment. Thus, children get to practise the ‘theory’ that they learn at home – these two forms of early education complement each other. It is through this that children learn to accept the occasional defeat, failure and dissatisfaction – and where they develop the ability to cope with challenges thrown their way.
At this age, children absorb all information that they receive: from people, places and experiences. While imagination and discovery are important in this process, these entities must be encouraged alongside skills of concentration in early education. This includes being able to listen and to respond appropriately, to follow instructions, to execute activities and to engage in group-work.