What is Early Childhood Education/Development?

Early childhood education is a specific branch of education that specializes in the learning and development of children typically from the ages of 3-5. Occasionally, early childhood education also involves infants.

Early childhood educators are well-versed in working in an unstructured, play-based classroom, and encouraging their students in learning through play. Thus, most of the course-work done in early childhood education differs from those of traditional elementary and intermediate education, where classroom are usually structured in a more constructed, isolated manner.

Getting a Degree in Early Childhood Education

Besides the degree program requirements that varies from school to school, the topics and general idea studied in courses in early childhood education are all quite similar. Students will learn about the development and learning styles and processes of young children, which differs greatly from older children and young adults.

Most degree programs — typically bachelor’s — will also have a clinical experience, where students studying early childhood education get to observe veteran teachers and receive hands-on experience in a real-life classroom. Clinical experiences usually end with the student instructing a class under the guidance of the cooperating teacher and an university supervisor. Here, the theoretical and analytical ideas studied in courses about early childhood education are implemented by the students in a real-life classroom.

Required Skills

One of the most important characteristics for those who wish to become an early childhood educator is the passion and patience for working with young children. As such, early childhood education are not for those who struggle with dealing with young children and/or toddlers.

Like most other job fields, exceptional organization and communication skills is a must. Early childhood education will often include special education, as early childhood is often the best time to detect development issues or learning disabilities. Most of these observations will be anecdotal, but teachers should make records of these, making strong organizational skills an asset.

Clear communication between the instructor and the families of students in the instructor’s care is extremely vital for the assurance of the each young student’s development and learning. Because a young children’s development could often be a sensitive subject to most, it is also important to be delicate when communicating to the families of students.

Employment Possibilities

The typical career path for those who wish to pursue early childhood education is teaching or becoming classroom aids  in a preschool or public school with a pre-kindergarten program. Some states allow early childhood educators who are licensed to teach or aid in classrooms up to the third grade. Other employment options may include working in daycares or specific on-site programs in children’s hospitals.

For those who wish to pursue a more advanced degree (up to a master’s) in early childhood education, opportunities to work as a program administer in an elementary or preschool is available. Other employment options also include research projects that aids in the improvement of early childhood education and development, or teaching at a university level.

No matter which path one chooses to pursue, those who work in early childhood education often have a rewarding and fulfilling career. Early childhood educators often provide a great service to children and their families by identifying development or learning disabilities, gifts, or talents. Early identification have been proven to greatly improve the possibilities for successful intervention, allowing students to get the right support and aid for a successful academic career. As well, the experience of providing children with a positive, healthy, and supportive learning environment is extremely rewarding in itself.

Featured Image: depositphotos/michaeljung