The Importance of Early Years Education
The Importance of Early Years Education
As early years professionals, we naturally believe strongly in early education’s importance.
There has been so much research into the importance and impact of high-quality early education on children’s development. Most recently, we have seen the Princess of Wales launch the Royal Foundation for Early Childhood, throwing some much-needed attention on this crucial stage in children’s lives.
For many parents with children under 5, choosing a nursery is often due to the need to return to work. However, you may or may not realise that even as a baby, early education forms part of their experience at any nursery.
Too many parents feel guilt when returning to work, knowing someone else will look after their child. Instead, we want parents to take comfort in that when children attend high-quality early education settings, they will feel the educational and emotional benefits throughout the rest of their childhoods.
What does the research say?
All of the research into the early years confirms that this is the most important and formative time in a child’s life. We know that this is when children learn most rapidly and where the experiences they are exposed to influence the person they will become.
By the time children reach age 6, their brain has already reached around 90% of their adult volume (Stiles and Jernigan, 2010). This staggering statistic reiterates the critical role of nurseries and early years settings in shaping children’s lives.
The government also recognises the importance of early education. It helps to support this by implementing 15- and 30-hour funding for children once aged 2 (15 hours only, where the criteria are met) and all children aged 3.
Additionally, the top 5 reasons that the early years’ matter, according to Shaping Us (2023), are as follows:
- During early childhood, from pregnancy to the age of five, our brains develop at an amazing rate – faster than at any other time in our lives.
- Our experiences, relationships, and surroundings at that very young age, shape the rest of our lives.
- This is when we start to understand the world in which we live. How to manage our emotions, build relationships with the people around us, believe in ourselves, develop resilience against adversity and have trust in others.
- Providing strong support for children, parents and carers during these more preventative years is essential and can have a life-changing impact.
- Because, if we can build a supportive, nurturing world around children and those caring for them, we can make a huge difference to the physical and mental health and happiness of generations to come.
The impact of a nursery: a real-life example
We spoke with one of our parents about how she feels being at nursery has impacted her child’s life. This parent has chosen to remain anonymous, but her account below are her honest thoughts.
“My little boy is now in reception but was in a nursery since he was 6 months old. Reflecting back on his time at his nursery, I can clearly see that his early experiences and education impacted him in many ways:
Confidence and self-esteem
The nursery has fundamentally shaped the little boy that he has become. I have seen his confidence and understanding develop during the 4 years he attended. Being separated from my and building other relationships with his caregivers has enabled him to develop his confidence.
Speech and Language development
For many of my friends, speech and language were a real worry, especially when some of my friend’s children weren’t speaking much. My child was exposed to language and communication in many ways at his nursery. He was constantly encouraged to express his emotions, make requests, and participate in all activities. I noticed a significant difference in my child’s speech compared to other children who weren’t in a nursery. I also learned that if my child did have a speech and language delay, this would likely have been spotted by the staff at the nursery.
Less of a fussy eater
Food played a big part in my child’s nursery experience. Mealtimes were seen as an opportunity for children to socialise with their friends. It also helped that the nursery menu was so varied that he tried all sorts. As a result, he isn’t a fussy eater and enjoys trying things he has never had before.
Ability to take risks
I was nervous when I first saw my boy climbing and walking along obstacles. But over time, I have noticed that this has allowed him to feel more confident when trying new activities. He is also very resilient if he falls down or scrapes himself, which I think is a fundamental skill at any age.
Ability to build relationships
My son’s nursery opened his world to various relationships that he would never have had if he wasn’t there. I have found that this has supported him in building relationships in other scenarios, mainly in his transition to school and at clubs he has now been enrolled in.
Transition to school
Starting school is a huge milestone for us parents. As my son spent so much time at nursery, moving to school was quite easy for him. He already knew how to form attachments and friendships with others outside of his family, so he adapted quite quickly to life at school.
Heightened immune system
I often hear parents say that they worry about how ill their child has been in the first year of starting a nursery. Whilst I know it can be tricky during the initial period, I can assure others that it does get better. Once your child has built up an immunity, you will find that they are less susceptible to illnesses, reducing the amount of absence they have when they start school.
I am absolutely confident that I can say that my son would never have had the experiences he has if it wasn’t for his nursery. So many activities are things that just can’t be recreated at home. At his nursery, my son tried all sorts of new experiences, was able to make a mess and indulged in everything his nursery had to offer.
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