It Starts Earlier Than You Think!
Recognizing the Benefits of Early Childhood Learning
Singing songs and playing games – the foundations of preschool and childcare. While these activities may seem trivial to adults, they are crucial learning tools that help teach and gauge developmental milestones. The years from birth through age 5 are critical for forming the foundation for healthy learning and social and developmental skills, and it is imperative that communities have access to high-quality early education opportunities.
“There are no ‘do-overs’ when it comes to training, nurturing, and encouraging early brain development in babies, infants, and toddlers,” says Ryta Sondergard of Valley Village Childcare. “These are the years where vital skills are learned. In early childhood development, children are dependent on parents, family members, and other caregivers as their first teachers to develop the right skills to become independent and lead healthy and successful lives. How the brain grows is strongly affected by the child’s experiences with other people and the world. Children grow best in a safe environment, protected as best as possible, from neglect, chronic stress, and any sort of abuse. They need an environment with plenty of opportunity to play and explore.”
“It is proven that early childhood experiences affect the development of the brain's architecture, which provides the foundation for all future learning, behavior, and health,” adds Lina Collado of the Teton Literacy Center. “A strong foundation helps children develop the skills they need to become well-functioning adults. When children are healthy, safe, and learning well in their early years, they are better able to reach their full developmental potential as adults and participate effectively in economic, social, and civic life. According to UNESCO, providing Early Childhood Education and Care is regarded as a means of promoting equity and social justice, inclusive economic growth, and advancing sustainable development.”
The benefits of high-quality childcare and early education extend from the child on, having incredible positive impacts on communities. “Quality early learning helps narrow educational disparities, ensuring that all children, regardless of their socioeconomic background, have a more equal start in life,” explains Monica Woodard and Heather Kibler of the Children’s Museum of Cheyenne. “Studies show that investing in early childhood education can lead to lower crime rates in the long term, as it promotes positive social behaviors. A well-educated workforce benefits the local economy by attracting businesses and increasing productivity.”
Even as awareness spreads of the importance of high-quality early education, there are many obstacles that stand in the way of accessibility. “The high costs of childcare and preschool programs can be a significant barrier for many families,” points out Woodard and Kibler. “Limited availability of quality childcare facilities, especially in underserved areas, and the shortage of qualified early childhood educators can impact the quality and availability of programs.” Sondergard adds, “Since 2020, 8.4 % of the childcare workforce has left for other professions.”
These challenges seem disheartening, but this article’s contributors believe that by expanding funding and advocacy, improving community support and outreach, and providing professional development and proper compensation to teachers, we might begin to close the gap in early learning opportunities for families.
“Healthy, thriving communities start with our youngest citizens,” says Molly Hughes, Executive Director of the Hughes Charitable Foundation. “Finding ways to provide the most and best quality education and care to our children is absolutely imperative. Let’s shed light on this important topic, and find new ways to empower our little learners.”
Find out what early learning opportunities are near you, and show support for our early childhood educators. Together, we can help our children build a foundation for future success, the foundation for a strong, healthy community.