Education transforms lives and breaks the cycles of poverty. Investing in children before they start school yields significant medium and long-term benefits.
Children need safe and healthy environments that nurture their positive development. They also need key relationships and opportunities to learn communication, thinking and problem-solving skills. Learning to cooperate with others is important too – and this often happens at school.
Social and emotional development
A child’s social and emotional development will affect how well they can learn. They need to feel safe and secure, have positive relationships with other children, and learn how to interact with adults. This is the foundation for lifelong learning.
Children develop social and emotional skills through consistent interactions with caregivers, such as parents and teachers. These experiences are crucial to healthy development and learning. They help children understand their emotions and develop self-control. It also helps them learn to cooperate with others and resolve conflicts.
This is called social and emotional learning (SEL). It includes the ability to experience and regulate emotions, form healthy relationships, establish goals and make responsible decisions. SEL is important for a variety of reasons, including improving school readiness, academic achievement, and long-term success in adulthood. It is often assumed that a child will develop these skills naturally, but programs that focus on SEL are being implemented from preschool to college.
Infants and toddlers develop physically in the areas of gross-motor (large muscle movements) and fine-motor skills (small movement). They use their senses to explore their environment through sight, touch, sound, and taste.
When an infant or toddler reaches milestones such as sitting up on their own, throwing a ball, and walking with assistance they learn about balance and coordination. They also build strength and stamina that can lead to physical activities such as jumping, running, kicking, skipping, or even climbing.
Teachers need to understand children’s physical development in order to provide the best learning opportunities. For example, it is important that children can hold a pencil correctly. Research shows that children who do not have the proper motor skills will struggle academically in later grades. This is why it is so important that parents and teachers stimulate physical development in young children. They can do this by providing them with a variety of experiences such as drawing, painting, and cutting.
Language and literacy
Language and literacy are key parts of children’s education. They involve the development of skills used to communicate with others through languages (language development) and the ability to read and write (literacy development).
Children learn early language and literacy skills by listening, talking, reading and playing with adults. They also develop skills by exploring and playing with books and other written materials like magazines, newspapers, take-out menus, markers and crayons.
Educators’ language and literacy knowledge can help promote children’s learning. This includes disciplinary content knowledge about how words and letters are structured, organized and related to one another and knowledge for practice about effective classroom strategies for supporting emergent literacy learning.
Every child has the right to a quality education that will enable them to realize their full potential. Education transforms lives and breaks the cycle of poverty, yet too many children around the world are deprived of this fundamental right. Education must be free and accessible to all children.
Thinking (cognitive) skills
Thinking, or cognitive, skills help children learn. They include the abilities to understand and use information, focus and manage emotions. Children with strong cognitive skills can handle challenging learning situations.
At an early age, children begin to understand how things work. This helps them develop a sense of order and sequence in the world around them, such as knowing that lunch comes before TV time or that holidays, like Thanksgiving, happen only once a year.
A child’s ability to make these connections is a measure of his or her reasoning skill. A person’s processing speed is also a key component of cognitive thinking. Children with slower processing speeds may have trouble making decisions and remembering information. They also may find it more difficult to grasp subjects that require a lot of rule application, such as mathematics and foreign languages. This is normal and can be improved over time. Fortunately, kids practice cognitive thinking skills naturally every day as they explore, question and solve problems.