On this page:
- The key role of the early period of a child's development
- What does scientific research say about the importance of preschool education?
- The role of preschool
- What to look for when choosing a preschool?
With the growth of scientific research, knowledge about child development is also slowly increasing in society. This knowledge is very important when deciding whether a child should stay at home until the age when they have to start compulsory school education, or rather send them to preschool, and if parents choose the second option, which institution to choose.
The key role of the early period of a child's development
Research on the human brain provides unambiguous evidence for the special importance of the early period of a child's life for their development and future. "Thanks to developmental neuroscience, we better understand how experiences in early life affect different stages of further development. Poor early development affects health (physical and mental), behavior, and learning in later life." (Importance of Early Chidlhood Education, Child Encyclopedia)
Early childhood is considered to be the most important phase of development. Healthy early child development, which includes physical, social/emotional, and linguistic/cognitive development (each equally important), strongly affect mental and physical health, literacy and numeracy skills, life success.
And the lack of proper care at this early stage can lead to many problems, such as obesity, heart disease, crime, and more. What happens to a child in the early years is crucial to the trajectory of their development, according to Joanna Matejczuk, a noted expert.
The importance of preschool age in child development can’t be overstated. According to Karen Brown, "During this time, many dynamic developmental changes are taking place in the sphere of physical, social, emotional, moral, cognitive, and communicative development. They all help the child better understand the world, themselves, and other people, and create the opportunity to meet their own needs and desires in a socially acceptable way. This meeting of your own desires with the requirements of the world, finding ways to deal with these two, often opposing tendencies, is one of the most important tasks of preschool age. It’s also a challenge for carers to accompany the child in such a way that they learn sensitivity to their own needs, readiness to set goals, and courage in achieving them, while understanding and respecting other people's points of view, needs, and desires."
What does scientific research say about the importance of preschool education?
Many scientists around the world have conducted in-depth research on the role of preschool education in a child's life. It’s summarized by Becton Loveless in What is so Important About Early Childhood Education? The conclusion of the research is that children derive enormous benefits from preschool education: "Children should start preschool education because they benefit from significant development in their brains in those early years."
What are the benefits? Better social skills, less or no need for special education in subsequent school years, better grades, and a greater ability to concentrate. Similarly, some researchers have come to the conclusion that children attending kindergarten usually don’t drop out of school, finish high school, and continue their education after graduating from high school. They also tend to have fewer behavioral problems and are less likely to engage in crime in adolescence and early adulthood.
It’s also interesting to note the conclusion of many studies: that children usually don’t benefit from preschool programs run by inexperienced teachers, and which have large groups.
The role of preschool
Parents are beginning to realize the development conditions they provide to their children up to the age of five to six will have important implications for their development in the future.
So it’s important how we plan this phase of a child's life. Our goal should be to optimize this period in the child's development to provide them with the most stimulating and safe environment possible. So let's not treat kindergarten as a place and a way to store a child for a few hours we spend at work. As you can see from numerous scientific studies, this decision is much more serious than many parents realize.
So don’t just pick the kindergarten closest to home, because it's convenient. When choosing a kindergarten, we should acquire knowledge that allows us to make an informed and correct choice, in the same way we choose higher level schools.
There has been a huge development in preschool education and many specialized programs have been created, each with their own philosophy, such as Montessori, Waldorf, and Reggio Emilia. There are also kindergartens with a specific focus, such as language, sports, ecology, religion, etc. It’s worth it to carefully research the specifics of these preschools, so you can make a choice based on your own priorities and values.
What to look for when choosing a preschool?
These studies and many others regarding preschool education clearly indicate preschool quality varies.
Let's look at two cases.
First: 35 children participate in traditionally conducted preschool activities with a teacher who has only a general idea about such research, and is tired of many years of work. So there’s no requirement to innovate.
Second: children have classes in small groups supervised by highly-qualified teachers implementing a well-thought-out program of educating children in many key skills at this stage of development, ensuring balanced emotional, social, intellectual, physical, and language development.
It’s clear that the first option is far inferior to the second.
What should you look for in a preschool? It’s not crucial everything is new, shiny, and of the highest quality. It’s much more important how staff interact with children and they do so in a positive, stimulating, and understanding manner—treating each child as an individual.
In our article, How to choose a preschool, we discuss the advantages of preschool education and recommend a number of criteria for choosing the right one for your child. We offer advice on what to pay attention to, what to ask, and more.
We’ve also compiled a list of the most important criteria to look for when analyzing and comparing preschool programs, from staff training and special programs, class size and interactions with teachers, to meals and outdoor games. Using this as a starting point, you can create your own priority list.
The number one rule is this: take the time to gain knowledge, and based on this, choose the right preschool, even if it’s not close to home, because it’s a priceless investment in the future of your child.
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