Do early childhood experiences really count?
With all the brain research in recent years, do we still need to ask this question? I think we do simply because new parents, community members and employers might not understand how this benefits them as well as the young child.
Providing enriching environments to stimulate early brain development is important for success in later life, and so is identifying and treating children’s vision, hearing, dental problems, and developmental delays. High quality early learning, especially for children at risk, has been shown to significantly improve early literacy, language and math skills and to decrease special education placements by nearly 50 percent through second grade and reduce grade repetition by up to 33 percent through eighth grade. Children of low-income households who participate in high-quality early education are more likely to finish high school and twice as likely to attend college.
Early childhood professionals with training in child development are aware of the need to attend to all aspects of children’s development. Good programs offer activities and services to promote each child’s physical, social and emotional development, as well as children’s cognitive development. They also provide the support that families need to ensure the wellbeing of their children. The state of Colorado is implementing changes in how childcare programs are licensed and evaluated for quality to include these areas that affect the whole child; it’s called the Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS). Colorado is also using early childhood councils to distribute information about early learning developmental guidelines that is incredibly helpful to care providers and to families. Look for these links at the end of the article!
Researchers have found children who attend high-quality early childhood programs do gain skills normally associated with greater brain development, such as problem solving and language, math and literacy skills. They also gain other kinds of competencies such as self-control, a higher motivation for learning and social skills. Families benefit too as they access needed services, develop parenting skills, and participate in an atmosphere that promotes meaningful family involvement. Economists estimate a 7-16 percent return on investment (ROI) in early education for children from low-income households — an ROI that outpaces the average 6 percent annual return from the stock markets since WWII.
Young children need meaningful learning opportunities to develop skills, competencies, a sense of self, and a foundation for learning throughout life.
Efforts to help all children achieve the basic skills of trust, motivation, and self-control needed for later intellectual and emotional development should not be aimed at creating super-babies, or giving anxious parents one more thing to worry about, or overambitious parents one more reason to push their children.
Our aim should be to ensure that all children reach school age with a solid foundation for learning and relating to others, and that all parents know what they can do to help their children develop.
Kids First provides information and funding for early childhood programs and families in Pitkin County. For information, contact Shirley at 920-5363 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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