Child education is a very fundamental part of the development of any child who wants to advance intellectually. Every child has the right to sound education and early learning helps to prepare the child for what is to come.
Early learning, also known as childhood education, is where children discover their interests and learn basic skills that will develop them. The benefit of this development at the earliest point of the child’s life is to ensure that they are receptive to learning until they mature.
The purpose of this article is to guide you on what early learning is, the characteristic of early learning as well as the possible gained skills when a child undergoes child education. If you are passionate about young kids and you want to know more about this concept, keep reading along.
Definition of Early Learning
Early learning simply means the education of children who are still in their formative years. Early education is the learning program that allows children to develop skills before entering kindergarten. The timeframe of early childhood education begins when a child is born making it an important period of their lives.
The kind of skills they develop at the very foundation of their young lives will shape their learning journey all through their lives. Children are observant and they pick up skills from their immediate environment. The family is the first and major part of the observational learning process for them. They learn how to interact with their parents, close family, peers, and teachers.
They also learn basic civic, social, emotional, and cultural skills from the environment. As such, parents should pay attention to their child’s development even before they begin to attend proper school training.
Early childhood learning should not be overlooked because this is the core learning foundation of a child. A faulty educational background will not be good for any child, the family of the child, and the society where the child comes from.
This is why nations all over the world are keen to ensure that children get the best possible learning foundation and background. Organizations are also willing to back such a vision that is embraced by many nations.
United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) pointed out that early childhood care and education is more than just creating a foundation for primary school. Its main goal is the total development of the child’s social, emotional, cognitive, and physical needs. The purpose of this is to build a solid background for lifelong learning and wellbeing. Early learning is simply the care of future citizens.
Early Learning Theories
1. Learning through physical activities
Friedrich Froebel, a German educator, understood that teachers can help children explore and interact with their immediate environment through physical activities. He believed that learning begins when there is consciousness, therefore, children can be educated early.
2. Cognitive childhood development theory
In the 19th century, Jean Piaget, a Swiss educator believed that children were active builders of knowledge and they had their own beliefs and theories of the world. He also debunked the notion that they were empty vessels that lacked knowledge.
Piaget also added that learning comes from within: children create their knowledge of the world through experience. He said that “if logic itself is created rather than being inborn, it follows that the first task of education is to form reasoning.” Piaget’s framework advised teachers to guide children in gaining their knowledge rather than simply transferring knowledge to the children.
According to Piaget, young children learn by balancing their mental representations with reality. When children get new information, they tend to retain the knowledge in their mental state and create a reality in their view of the world.
Piaget created a cognitive childhood development theory and it is divided into four crucial stages:
- Sensorimotor Stage is the period when children learn mainly with their senses usually between zero to two years (0-2 years)
- Preoperational Stage is the period when children learn to understand how words and symbols like numbers works,
- Concrete Operations is a time when children learn how to solve mental problems like math, between age six to eleven (6-11years)
- Formal Operations is a stage when an individual learns advanced and abstract reasoning between the ages of eleven to adulthood (11-adult)
Teachers should encourage students to learn from their mistakes and ask questions to aid learning and development.
SEE: Cognitive Learning
3. Learning through social and cultural interaction
Lev Vygotsky, a Russian psychologist, was another early learning theorist. He believed that social and cultural interactions affect the growth and development of the child. With the presence of competent adults that include teachers, parents, grandparents, and other mature individuals, they play an active role in the learning process of the child.
Characteristics of Early Learning
Most early learners are very active and they show a lot of interest in indoor and outdoor activities that allow them to be mobile. They always want to know more about their surroundings and are willing to explore as much as they can.
Young children are known to be curious and this makes learning easy for them. They will always move to objects that fascinate them. Children love to know the cause and effect of the actions they take which is why you find them always pushing, touching, pulling, banging, and shaking things.
Early learners are always very playful and they have a lot of energy to use. To get the best out of a playful child, the learning material has to be very engaging to the child. This will maintain the focus of the child while he or she is having fun. You can also encourage children to explore their creativity. By making learners participate in things like art, the child shows his or her learning and creative skills.
4. Rhythm and Repetition
Children easily learn concepts through songs, rhymes, and poems. Not only is it easy to recite and comprehend, but it is also another means of having fun for them. These songs teach them basic knowledge like the alphabet and other common concepts. Constant rhythm and repetition make it easy for children to process information.
5. Physical experience
Young learners easily learn from experience more than they learn from other means. No matter how much you tell a child not to touch a hot object, he or she may never listen until the object gives them a small burn. Their experience with such objects will teach them how to interact and react to similar situations subsequently. Children always seek to learn with their bodies first.
For a group of very young learners, children show a strong desire for independence. They always want to do things themselves and their way.
Advantages of Early Learning
Children learn to socialize at a very early age. Socialization is an important process in the life of any individual. Early childhood education allows children to interact with their immediate environment starting from the family to their peer groups. As they socialize with other individuals, they develop interpersonal skills and self-esteem which will be useful in the future.
2. Learning motivation
With early childhood education, children learn for as long as life takes them. Interesting teachings also motivate young learners will be more receptive to learning more skills and knowledge that will be beneficial to them.
Furthermore, they understand the value of education better. Exposure to fun activities makes them eager to process valuable information.
Early childhood education teaches cooperation among children. They learn how to share, take turns, and respect other people’s opinions. It is quite normal to find young children who find it difficult to be less selfish. Early learning helps them to cooperate with other children.
4. Improved educational performance
When a child undergoes early education, he or she tends to perform well in elementary school. This is because the child has been mentally developed and the foundations were well prepared. Children who pass through quality early education need less attention from teachers because of their level of development.
5. Increased attention span
It is possible to find children easily distracted. This is because their curious mind is open to receiving information anywhere and anytime making it difficult for them to focus on one thing for some time. Early childhood learning exposes children to new experiences and new environments. They also get to relate with new friends that create memories for them.
While this experience is going on, they learn to pay attention, contribute and participate in group works, stick to instructions and work independently. The combination of all these keeps them focused, thereby, improving their attention span.
Early childhood learning is where children learn to tolerate and accept others irrespective of their backgrounds. When they are taught to respect different views, religions, sex, physical conditions, and other diversities, their interpersonal skills improve. The world has a lot of diversities now, the earlier they learn to understand it, the better their chances of accepting differences in society.
Disadvantages of early learning
1. Low teacher-learner ratio
The low teacher-learner ratio is one of the major challenges of early childhood education. The lack of professional teachers skilled in early education affects the learning process of the child. All the children need adequate attention from teachers to learn better but it often turns out that most teachers cannot guarantee one-on-one time to their young learners.
2. Learning limitations
Not all early childhood education allows children to be exposed to a wide range of knowledge. Some of them are limited to what their teachers can offer them and this limits their creativity skills. Children should not be restricted to their teachers as the main source of knowledge. They should be open to more options.
3. Learning Overload
While it is important to train children early enough, it is wrong to force knowledge on them. No matter how fast they are at picking up information, their brains need to develop at their own pace to process information. A child should not be allowed to learn to read or write before time because such a child is not ready. This will lead to frustration and might discourage the child from enjoying education generally.
4. No attention to children with developmental delay
Not all children develop at the same pace. Some might experience delays in their physical and cognitive growth and this could affect how they process information and interact with other children. This delay could affect them when early learning teachers or schools do not have plans for slow learners.
This can be common among children who require special needs due to physical or mental challenges. They may find it hard to relate with others and can be very slow at learning. Without special training, it might be difficult to impact such children.
Why is early learning important?
Early learning has a positive effect on the physical, mental and social development of a child. It increases creativity and confidence levels and also improves academic performances.
Is early learning and preschool the same thing?
Early learning is the process of acquiring information as a child while preschool is a formal environment that facilitates early learning. A child can experience early learning anywhere including the home.
How can you improve early learning?
You can improve early learning by encouraging your child to socialize with other children.
In summary, just as we have learned in this article, early learning is very important in the development of a child. As such, early learning should be encouraged as the advantages outweigh the disadvantages.
In addition, if you have a passion for early learning and child development, you can take a professional course on early childhood education so that you can be an important part of their early lives.
Lastly, you may check the article on adult learning to learn about gaining knowledge and skills as an adult.
I hope this article helped you. Thank you for reading.