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Development in Early Childhood Years
Early childhood care and education (ECCE) encompasses children from birth to eight years of age (preschool, kindergarten and early primary years). There is increasing research evidence that these early years of life are a critical period for development as the rate of development is most rapid in this period.

Importance of Early Years- The early years provide a base for all areas/domains of development- physical, social, emotional, language, cognitive and creative. The development in all the areas is interrelated. When change happens in one it also impacts/influences the other development areas. For example- when children begin to crawl or walk, they start interacting more with different objects and people in the environment. Due to this they develop more social skills and also better intellectual skills.

Learning through Various Experiences- Childhood is a state of wonder and curiosity; a time when the world is fresh and every small thing is intriguing and interesting. A child finds wonderment in small things like an ant crawling on the floor and a cat jumping over the wall. Young children develop their knowledge and understanding of the world in the course of their own experiences, as well as from teachers, family members, peers and older children, and from books and other media.

A variety of experiences should be provided to children that are relevant at their current stage of life. These experiences will ultimately lay a strong foundation and help the children become better at reading, writing and math at later stages. Children should become very fluent in these areas; however, methods such as rote memorization, repeating things again and again, or start reading and writing early is not the solution. Children need holistic experiences where they think, can act on the information, talk and converse, hold discussions, question and not only develop superficial knowledge but deep understanding.

A day at school- A child’s day at school should be filled up with various sessions and activities that promote development and learning across all the domains. Important sessions during a day include language, numeracy, environmental science, art, music and movement, indoor free play and outdoor play. Often looked upon as unimportant in school, play is an important vehicle for developing self-regulation as well as for promoting language, cognition and social competence. In addition to the separate language and numeracy sessions, through drawings in art sessions, rhymes and patterns in music sessions, themes in environmental science sessions to playing with manipulative materials in play sessions, the development of language and numeracy skills happens throughout the day. The strategies that a teacher uses in these sessions play an important role in making learning holistic and meaningful for the child. For example, by helping a child label her drawings in the art sessions and talking about it, the teacher aids the development of writing and speaking skills.

The role of a school- A school provides not only stimulating activities but there is also a great advantage and joy in collective activity, sharing, learning to wait, etc. A healthy environment, space, materials and time for play as well as adults who foster learning and nurture relationships are the essentials. A good early years education gives the best start to children, which have long time benefit for their future life and learning. As much as it prepares them for later classes it must be remembered that it is not a downward extension of the higher classes. Expecting too much too soon can be harmful to children since their performance cannot match expectations, causing their self-esteem to suffer. Children need to be given tender loving care and attention, not just because they will one day become productive adults, but because they have the right, as children to live and grow to their full potential.
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