Early child development sets the foundation for lifelong learning, behavior, and health. The experiences children have in early childhood shape the brain and the child’s capacity to learn, to get along with others, and to respond to daily stresses and challenges.
Early Brain Development
There are some important concepts that help us understand early brain development:
Beginning in the last trimester of the prenatal period, brain pathways are formed by developing new connections. This growth increases after birth and follows a predictable sequence.
At birth, newborns start with very similar brains and brain structures.
There are “sensitive periods” during a child’s development, when the wiring of the brain for specific abilities is established.
Providing responsive, nurturing, and stimulating experiences establish the wiring of the brain connections. Children who are well supported and nurtured physically, emotionally, socially, and intellectually will develop a multitude of neural connections that will serve them well throughout their life course.
A child’s interest and curiosity are the motivators that create new connections to acquire new skills. Each new skill builds on a skill already learned. The child’s environment can support and enhance his interest and curiosity.
Early brain development establishes a child’s social competence, cognitive skills, emotional well-being, language, literacy skills, physical abilities and is a marker for well-being in school and life resiliency.
Domains of Development
Human development is complex and all aspects are interconnected. Yet, in most texts and writings, early human development has been artificially divided into developmental domains. This categorization can assist professionals in ensuring that all areas of the child’s development are observed and supported, thus furthering his whole development. Professionals must keep in mind that all domains or areas of development are interconnected. For example, learning to talk is usually placed in the language domain, but involves physical, social, emotional and cognitive development. In this resource, children’s development has been grouped into the following domains:
In the past decade, there has been considerably more interest and investment in the early years both in Canada and abroad. By supporting young children and families now, society will benefit later with “healthy, educated, confident and productive adults”.
Supporting early learning is based on the following facts and premises:
· Children are cared for as their families provide nutrition, shelter, nurturing, stimulation and protection. The care they receive enables children to learn and develop to their full potential with increasing influence from the world outside the family.
· Parents want to understand how their child develops and learns. Prenatal and parenting classes, drop-in programs, home visiting and many other opportunities can be explored to support parents from various cultural, educational, geographic and socio-economic backgrounds.
· High-quality child care settings and pre-school education improve children’s developmental outcomes. Two longitudinal studies, the High/Scope Perry Preschool project and the Carolina Abecedarian project, compared children who received high-quality, early-years programs with children who did not. When comparing the two groups of children over several decades, key differences emerged. The children who received the quality program scored higher on language, literacy, and numeracy tests throughout their schooling; finished more years of school; and had higher rates of employment. In Canada, Quebec has developed an educational program adapted from the High/Scope model that fosters full and holistic development of children through an evidence-based curriculum and has demonstrated positive results. Other studies have also found that participation in quality early childhood education and care settings has been positively linked to child outcomes such as improved language, literacy, and numeracy development, school readiness and social skills.
· Parent participation in early childhood education and care settings not only improves children’s development, but also strengthens families and parenting skills through connecting and sharing with other families. When parent and family involvement is planned into the early childhood education and care setting, and relationships between professionals family members are built on trust and respect, the greatest benefits are reaped. Clearly, when children have access to quality early childhood environments and experiences, it can set the stage for positive trajectories later on in life.
Ms. Nora Sierra
EC Assistant Principal