Why Is Early Learning So Important? Because Brains Are Built, Not Born
There are hundreds of differing opinions and studies about the impact of formal prekindergarten education for young children. What is consistently concluded, however, is that young children absolutely benefit from receiving some type of education during their early developmental years – the higher the quality, the better.
Babies begin to learn about the world around them before they are even born! Children’s experiences – the bonds they form with their parents and their first learning experiences – profoundly impact their future physical, cognitive, emotional and social development. The major building of a child’s brain happens between birth and 3 years old. The connections, or wiring, that form for a child’s vision and hearing peak at four months. Those for language peak at nine months and higher cognitive functions at a year. A child’s experiences and environment determine which connections get used more and strengthened. Those used less fade. A child’s interactions with the world determine how these connections are formed, providing a strong or weak foundation for all future health and learning.
Some parents may think, “I’m a parent, not a teacher.” The Early Learning Coalition of Hillsborough County (ECLHC) believes that parents are a child’s first and most important teacher. By the time a child is a year old, parents will spend about 8,700 hours with their child. By the time a child is 5, a parent will have accumulated approximately 44,000 hours with their child. During this time, development and learning are continuously occurring for the child. The ELCHC not only provides education and supports to early learning professionals, but we also provide support, information and programs that help parents gain an understanding of their child’s early developmental years and the vital role that they play in ensuring that their child has the best foundation for future academic and life success.
Whether or not a parent chooses to place their child in an early learning program outside the home depends on the needs of the family and the child. Parents should know that, as with school-age children and even adult learners, there is no one-size fits all instruction model or method best suited for all young children. However, we do know that learning opportunities must be provided to children beginning at birth and if children are in programs outside of the home, those programs must provide high-quality learning opportunities to be most beneficial to children, families and our community.