We know that giving kids a strong start can help them later in life. As a teacher, you have an important role and can positively influence them in their day-to-day experiences. What are the benefits of prioritizing education at a young age? How can your interactions with children create meaning in a tumultuous world? Knowing more about early learning can help.
What Is Early Childhood?
Most preschool and kindergarten educators emphasize that the crucial early learning days begin around age 4. However, the transition between grades may be even more important than the early learning years. Kindergarten-readiness, for example, is something that students prepare for long before kindergarten begins, and some studies show that these earlier years are a rapid time of growth and development and may hold the key to academic and social success.
Why Early Learning Matters
Support for students as they move through pre-K to kindergarten holds great value, and studies show that those who have access to high-quality early education programs see gains over peers who do not. Some of the ways these students thrive include:
- Promotion of brain development
A Harvard University guide noted the important developments that take place during the early childhood years. The years between birth and age 5, specifically, appeared critical for developing social, emotional and cognitive skills. These years are also the peak time for children to develop linguistic abilities. Those who get a head start in these developmental categories often outperform other classmates.
- Positive long-term, socio-economic benefits
Kids with a positive view of education tend to experience its economic benefits later in life. The early years often influence whether or not students go on to attain additional levels of education after high school. Job and educational performance as well as earning potential increase as a result of positive educational experiences, as well. While these are significant benefits for the student on an individual level, healthier communities may naturally develop when members can support themselves and mentor others.
- Improved learning through technology
There have been warnings about the dangers of excessive screen time in children. However, a balanced approach toward technology offers potential benefits for kids as young as two. An Early Learning and Educational Technology Policy Brief (2016) from the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services goes into further detail on what technology can offer and how it’s changing the youngest lives.
Technology can serve as an equalizer to improve access to educational resources for kids from all backgrounds, but it can also enhance communication — leading to strong relationships with peers, parents, teachers and other kids. The brief emphasizes that learning works best when adults facilitate and monitor technology use. As more technology tools find their way into the early learning classroom, new challenges may arise, but the benefits are generally seen as worth it.
Tips for Teaching Early Learners
There is no doubt that early learning educators are vital members of society and for our youth, but what can today’s teachers do to stay in tune with the best practices for this age group? One way to keep informed on successful methods and technology trends is through continuing education. Most educators spend some of their school year taking workshops, viewing courses or reading magazines.
There’s another option, however, that’s considerably more intense but that offers access to the latest methodologies and a supportive network of instruction and implementation: the Master of Science in Early Childhood Education online program from Arkansas State University. This 100% online degree program can be completed in as few as 12 months. If your desire is to bring about change in the littlest learners, this program may be for you.
Learn more about A-State’s MSE in Early Childhood Education online program.