Early childhood education focuses on the social, emotional, physical, cognitive, and language development in children from infant to preschool age. Kindergarten-aged children may also be included in early childhood education.
This domain covers social interactions, including getting along with others, turn-taking, participation, and cooperation. Social skills are important during the early years because they shape how children communicate with others and how they negotiate and collaborate as they age.
As important as it is for children to learn how to interact with others, they must also be self-aware in how they express themselves and recognize their own feelings. They must also learn to be sensitive to the feelings of others and develop methods for managing these emotions.
This refers to the interactions that children have with literacy materials (books, magazines, etc.) as well as how they communicate, through speaking and later through writing. Developing a strong foundation for literacy greatly aids children’s academic success later on.
This domain can also be considered the “knowledge” domain as it refers to reasoning, thinking, and understanding. It includes cause-and-effect, spatial relationships, problem-solving, imitation, memory, number sense, classification, and symbolic play, all of which are important for knowledge growth and development.
Just as important as cognitive development is physical development, or practicing fine and gross motor skills. Besides mastering physical coordination and the movement of the body, physical skills affect a child’s growth.
Play is a major mode of learning for young children. It allows them to discover, create, manipulate, experiment, and explore, allowing them to learn and make meaning of their world and the surrounding environment. Add in engagement with others and play can satisfy each domain of a child’s development.
The Reggio-Emilia approach is considered a child-led approach because it allows children to express themselves and explore their environment independently in order to learn. It views children as learners who are active, strong, capable, and competent and follows the principle that their learning is based on their interests. The classroom environment is considered a “third teacher” and children are free to show their understanding and express their thoughts as they wish.
Emergent learning is a way of teaching and planning a curriculum in which educators observe children determine their initial interests and develop meaningful play learning experiences based on these interests. Learning opportunities are structured, taking into account children’s needs and interests, and aim to support their key developmental skills.
Another approach to educating children is Waldorf, a holistic approach. Academic subjects are not taught until the age of about seven years. Instead, children are educated in groups through activities – such as storytelling, art, and music – led by the teacher. The idea is to let children use their natural curiosity to teach themselves and learn at their own pace.