Every child benefits
Early childhood education is a place where children make friends, develop independence, improve their cognitive skills and learn more about their world.
The Department of Education has launched the video series "Children Starting Strong" for parents. The series will showcase the brilliance of tiny minds in an early childhood education setting. Children from metropolitan and regional NSW show off their big ideas by answering some of life's most meaningful questions, like the importance of identity, future aspirations, happiness and friendships. The videos illustrate the diverse and valuable impact early childhood education can have on children, and also reminds us how much we can learn from them!
Working with families
Each child has their own unique experience of early childhood education. We spoke to parents across NSW who shared some of their favourite things about early education. Take a look at the feedback from families.
Preschool age children are fascinated by the world around them, including other children. From the ages of three to five, most children want to play with others their age, and are able to think about the feelings of others at an initial level. At this age, children are learning how to play with others, and might have a “best friend”.
In early childhood education, children are encouraged to share and play with their peers. Through these interactions they will learn to develop important interpersonal qualities such as empathy and cooperation which will help them get along with others in preschool and beyond. By spending time with their peers, children learn to include ideas from others in their play, and start to understand each other’s feelings. Young children are naturally egocentric, so learning skills such as empathy can be challenging, but the good news is they can learn a lot from watching and interacting with their peers. These early years social skills can help your child develop friends through their whole life.
Getting ready for school
Starting primary school is an exciting time in your child’s life, and early childhood education can help them get ready for the next big step. Early childhood education prepares children for school in both informal and formal ways, such as engaging in a range of Transition to School activities.
Children who experience a positive transition to school are more likely to feel comfortable, relaxed and motivated to learn. This helps them form positive relationships with others, both children and educators, and develop a sense of belonging within the school.
Some children may find the changes exciting, while others can feel overwhelmed and nervous; these are all normal reactions. It’s important to remember that the transition to school process is not just about the first day of school, but also the period leading up to it, including preparing them for leaving the safety of preschool. The transition process continues while they are settling into their first days, weeks and months in the new environment. It can be daunting for parents too and there is a range of resources available to help during this time.
Increasing their independence
For many children, participating in early childhood education is the first significant amount of time they will spend away from their family. Being in a new environment, away from home, can help children to build their confidence and discover their identity.
As part of a child’s growing independence, they develop key self-regulation skills between the ages of three and five years old. These skills may include concentrating, sharing and taking turns. For example, toddlers may show self-regulation by waiting to play with a toy, or by paying attention to someone who is talking to them. Self-regulation skills are important to help children develop confidence and independence, allowing them to grow and understand who they are, and to form friendships. Parents, carers and early childhood educators are all important role models for demonstrating healthy methods of self-regulation.
Learning new routines
By attending early education, your child can learn to adapt to a new routine outside the home. Routines can positively influence a child’s emotional and cognitive development, and knowing what to expect encourages them to feel secure and comfortable.
Routines can help children manage their expectations of their environment, and reduce problematic behaviours such as temper tantrums. When developing daily routines, early childhood teachers and educators will consider a mix of activities that are active/passive, indoor/outdoor, and child-directed/adult-directed. Routines are also planned according to children’s ages to make time for naps, incorporate any individual requirements or medical needs, and to accommodate their attention spans and other aged-based needs. There are resources available to help parents with their child starting at an early childhood service.
Under the Early Years Learning Framework, children in early education services are guided to spend time participating in deliberate ‘play-based learning’. This can be initiated by children and supported by educators, and may include active, imaginative, or music-based play, amongst other fun activities. A play-based program is coordinated by the educators and is designed to make the most of children’s playtime, and to encourage their natural curiosity as they play. As young brains are always learning, this leads to development opportunities. Children can experiment, explore and discover new concepts about the world in playful ways. For example, by playing in a sandpit, children can see how different sized cups cannot hold the same amount of sand.