You may be wondering what all the fuss is about child care, preschool and early childhood education. After all, education doesn’t really start until children enter kindergarten, right?
Actually children start learning even before birth and can recognize their mother’s voice. A child’s brain grows faster during the first three years of life with more than a million new brain connections forming each second. From the moment children enter the world, they have started on their educational path. Children are born learners because it is how they survive, adapt, and succeed in life.
Children’s foundational learning is based on warm reciprocal relationships with families and caregivers. Social and emotional interactions occur when basic needs for food, shelter and love are being met. Children connect emotionally with the most important adults in their lives first, and then add connections to other family members, teacher, and peers. Healthy social and emotional development is a critical factor in success in school and life.
As children develop, they begin to understand and adopt the expectations of their families, neighborhoods, and communities (Forrester & Albrecht, 2014).Their environments and early experiences set the stage for healthy physical and mental development. Their language and vocabulary is built on the frequency of talking, reading, and singing by their caregivers.
According to the Ounce of Prevention Fund, at-risk children who don’t receive high-quality early childhood educational experiences are 25 percent more likely to drop out of school, 40 percent more likely to become a teen parent, 50 percent more likely to be placed in special education, 60 percent more likely to never attend college, and 70 percent more likely to be arrested for a violent crime. Early childhood experiences nourish children’s growing brains and build the critical foundation of skills and knowledge necessary to become competent productive adults.
Quality early childhood education programs guide vulnerable children on the path to higher reading and math scores. These programs also help children complete their schooling on time, attend college or enter the workforce career ready. This success can increase earnings over their lifetime, open employment opportunities, and allow children to grow into healthy productive, contributing adults.
The shortage of high-quality early childhood education programs, limited affordability, and limited access contribute to the issue. Research shows that children from families with few resources and under great stress benefit most from quality early childhood programs (Zero to Three, 2017). Child care “deserts” plague both rural and urban communities, which causes communities to fail those who need it most.
Want to touch the future? Feel like you have the necessary skills, dispositions, and passion to work with our youngest citizens to start them on the path to success? There are many resources to help you become an early childhood professional and start a high quality, successful early childhood care and education program.
Family Connections is a local nonprofit providing training, coaching, and mentoring services for early childhood programs. You may qualify for mini grants and other financial incentives through the Montana STARS to Quality program to start and maintain a high quality early childhood education program.
FamilyConnectionsMT.org has more information about starting an early childhood care and education program.
This story is provided and presented by our sponsor Family Connections