There’s a difference between early childhood education and early childhood experiences . While experiences outside of the home like playground playdates, story hour, mommy-and-me classes, and even co-ops, offer developmental benefits to young children, I’d like to share the richness of our early childhood educational program at EC. I believe it is invaluable to the students and families that we serve.
Let’s talk about child development. As children grow, they have clear developmental windows of opportunity when they are ready to grow in certain ways. However, children need proper stimuli for this growth to occur. When these windows close, it will never be as easy to grow in those ways again. As early childhood educators, we have observed that some children are not being exposed to stimuli needed to grow during critical windows of development.
Among the many changes to education amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, one of the most concerning to me as an Early Childhood educator is the potential for missed developmental windows of opportunity.
Once the window to develop these skills closes, these skills are much more difficult to develop. As an example, think of a family who relocates to a new country and the young child picks up the new language with ease while the adult has to work much harder to acquire it. Since the window for language acquisition is open during the early childhood years, young children pick up the new language with ease.
A Critical Window of Time
There are several critical windows of development between 2.5 -6 years. I’d like to highlight 5 key areas: Language, Order, Sensory Skills, Social skills, and Movement.
Language: Birth – 6 years, is a critical period for language development involving three key phases: spoken language, written language, and reading. EC youngest students are immersed in language rich environments. Opportunities to speak, listen, sing, and read are thoughtfully integrated throughout the day, and children are encouraged to speak their needs.
Order: From 2 – 5 years, the developmental window to develop reasoning skills, organize information, and understand the environment is open. Consistency, repetition, routine, and structure are a priority during this developmental stage. That’s why EC early childhood classes establish ground rules, run on a predictable routine, and everything is organized in a way that allows children to return everything to its place.
Sensory skills : A unique phase for sensorial exploration and classification occurs from 2.5 to 6 years. This phase can be classified by an intense desire to take part in learning experiences that integrate the senses. These experiences provide children with a system to classify objects within their environment. Understanding this significance, each EC early childhood classroom includes a sensory table, art center, sciences center, ABC center and math center each with plenty of opportunities for children to sort and classify a variety of materials. In kindergarten, every phonics lesson is instructed using a multi-sensory approach.
Social skills: Between 2.5 to 5 years, children develop an intense interest in social relationships and learn that they are part of a group. During this stage of development children learn to develop friendships and participate in cooperative play. It is critical for children to have social interactions with peers during this time.
Movement: Between 2.5 to 4.5 years, a period of refinement and coordination of movement occurs. During this time, children develop a refined pincer grip, and control and coordinate movement. During this stage, children need to play on the playground! Weather permitting part-time EC preschool and kindergarten students play on the playground once a day and full-time students visit the playground twice a day. Teachers create opportunities for young children to climb, run, jump, balance, and move throughout the day. Students also participate in weekly physical education classes. Activities are strategically designed requiring both hands to work together, fingers to work in isolation, and for children to use a pincer grip.
In some ways, we have already begun to see the fall out in children who were unable to participate in traditional preschool and kindergarten classes as a result of the pandemic. Last year, EC offered 5 full days of in person learning. Many children not enrolled at EC last year found themselves in remote learning environments, with hybrid school schedules, or being homeschooled. While these options were effective for some, many struggled. As a result, there are many rising kindergarten students in New Jersey repeating the grade in person this time. This has not been our experience at EC.
As an early childhood educator, I am convinced that an EC preschool or kindergarten classroom experience is more important than ever before for the youngsters who are walking through such an important developmental stage during this unique moment in history. Recognizing that each child was fearfully and wonderfully created in the image of God, we are prepared to meet each child’s social, emotional, physical, cognitive, and spiritual needs.
We are very much looking forward to this school year and all that God has in store for us! We hope that you’ll consider our early childhood program for your child as we partner together to meet their needs at this critical window of development in their lives.