The ways in which children develop in the early years have major effects on their physical, social and emotional well being in the future. Therefore, it is incredibly important to understand the role that early childhood education (ECE) plays in children’s lives.

During the period of birth to eight years old, the brain develops the majority of its connections between neurons.  This in turn develops our physical, socio-emotional, cognitive and motor skills. ECE helps the brain to build better and stronger connections early on.

Optimising the very early years of children’s lives through ECE is the biggest investment we can make to ensure not only their current success, but also their success in the future. But how exactly does it impact their lives and that of the communities they live in?

How ECE affects children and communities

  • Children develop good habits

The daily routines that ECE teaches children, help them to feel safe and secure. These routines also teach children healthy habits, such as personal hygiene and self care. Routines help children understand what to expect every day, and this can assist to keep them calm and organised.

  • Children develop skills 

Children learn new skills during ECE by drawing, listening to stories and talking about their own experiences. These activities form the basis for important skills such as  literacy and numeracy.  As such, ECE forms a firm foundation for education and has a major impact on children’s academic success later in life.

  • Children develop emotionally 

During ECE, children learn to develop emotional resilience, which helps them to deal with difficult situations. It also helps them to communicate their ideas with others and which is an important aspect of friendship.  Lastly, ECE helps children to become more independent.

  • It cultivates a healthy love for learning in communities 

Children who have access to ECE are more likely to be confident and curious. They often also share their experiences with other children in the community. And as a result, it cultivates a love for lifelong learning.

  • More responsibility in communities 

ECE helps children to develop a sense of responsibility. This is highly beneficial in the communities they grow up in, as it creates a sense of trust and accountability.

While ECE offers many advantages for children early on, there are also several long-term benefits. Let’s explore these:

Long-term benefits of Early Childhood Education

  • Improved health

For most students from systematically underprivileged areas, poor nutrition is a big problem. It acts as a deterrent to fitness and health. Food knowledge, coupled with exercise, can help children improve muscle, brain and bone development. Improved health will also increase resistance in their bodies and will help them tackle illnesses better later in life.

  • Socialisation

According to research, good socialisation skills are a major factor contributing to a person’s success in their adult years. ECE helps children learn how to effectively socialise with their peers, as well as their superiors.

  • Boosted self-esteem

Learning to do things independently can boost self-esteem during ECE. And in turn, a healthy self-esteem not only increases a child’s motivation levels but also enhances their confidence in the choices they make.

These factors all contribute to the holistic development of the communities children grow up in. It cultivates a healthy environment and one that grows over time.

The situation in South Africa

Studies show that just over 21% of children up to two years are enrolled in a group programme for early learning, while around 1.1-million children between the ages of three to five do not have access to any form of early learning programme. Challenges facing ECE in South Africa include socio-economic factors, financial constraints and inadequate teaching and learning resources.

How can you help?

As a parent, it is essential to ensure you child gets the education he or she requires between the ages of birth to eight years old. There are hundreds of early childhood development (ECD) centres, non-profit organisations, playgroups, ECD forums and primary schools that offer the necessary education to very young children.

Many people don’t realise the importance of ECE. Therefore, it is also important to create awareness of the benefits it offers. This can include sharing posts such as this one, sharing other information, joining forums and educating yourself on the investment in ECE.

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