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Thinking of sending your child to an early learning environment?
Then you are not alone.
Currently there are just over 339,000 children aged 4 or 5 enrolled in a pre-school programme in Australia. A figure that rose by 1.3% over the previous year.
While several studies have determined that preschool-aged children tend to learn more in environments where they enjoy secure relationships with adults they trust, and who are responsive and caring. Some parents are still reticent about sending their child to an early learning environment.
In this article we will showcase what exactly an early learning environment is and outline some of the synergistic benefits of sending your child to one.
What is an Early Learning Environment?
Essentially, early learning environments are nurturing spaces that tend to help young children below the age of 5 years old with their emotional, physical, educational and social development.
They do this within a well-managed and organised setting that provides a range of indoor and outdoor opportunities for experimentation, exploration, play and choice. As well as lesson plans and schedules that are developmentally appropriate.
Early learning environments offer material, supplies and equipment that are appropriate to the ages of the children that attend them. These centres also tend to provide an extension of home cultures, as well as a flexibility which supports the changing characteristics and interests of a child, as they age over time.
For children, these types of institutions tend to be very inclusive and safe spaces, as well as bright, colourful and inviting in decor and design.
They are run by a dedicated team, who by law must include at least one professional who has (or is working towards) an approved 2-year Diploma level qualification or higher, in a relevant area of child development study.
There must also be a minimum adult-to-child ratio of 1 to 15.
What is in an Early Learning Environment?
Most early learning environments or centres have a range of equipment, and resources, to provide your child with lots of different tools to aid their development.
Specific facilities do vary between institutions, but they may include the following.
Kids Club Playscapes
Generally, at these centres, there will be a designated play area, within an outdoor space. This acts as an extension of their indoor learning environment and is usually covered by shade.
These play areas are specifically designed to encourage independent exploration, foster increased competency and enable children to enhance their gross motor skills. It also provides them with the opportunity to enjoy imaginative play and social interaction.
Some of these playscapes even include a garden area where children can help to grow plants or an herb garden.
The Home Environment
The home environment is usually a communal area that offers several learning objectives for children.
It also enables them to engage in cooperative play, as well as exchange ideas, problem solving and negotiate turns.
This area is focused on supporting their overall development, in addition to being a warm and welcoming space that helps children feel like they belong.
Books are very important to a preschooler’s development, and you will find that most learning environments have a huge volume of books in their library.
Providing children with exciting opportunities to develop and learn, reading also stimulates their brains and imaginations.
The library is also the home of story time, which is something most young children really enjoy and look forward to.
Arts & Crafts Area
As art and craft experiences are very beneficial to all aspects of a child’s development, most centres have a dedicated section for it.
Not only do these sections allow your child to explore their creative side, but they also enable them to process and express their emotions too.
Furthermore, it’s also an extremely good way to improve their fine motor skills too.
A perennial favourite amongst preschoolers, most centres will have a section devoted to blocks.
Blocks are an important material as they enable young kids to explore concepts that transcend all areas of developmental learning.
They also encourage open-ended and collaborative play, whilst allowing children to form bonds and share experiences together.
Kids are naturally inquisitive and keen to explore the mechanics of the world around them. This might go some way to explaining why many of them love science.
To tap into this, many centres will have a dedicated science corner which will allow children to perform fun experiments, as well as use light tables or electronic devices like iPads or computers to discover more about how the world works.
Dance, movement and music
All the best and most fun places have a dance floor, right!
Well, most early learning environments will have an area reserved for dancing and moving. Which is very important as children can hone and enhance their gross motor skills whilst doing either.
Music, too, is a fun aspect of learning, and with many different types of instruments available, it gives children the chance to further develop their creativity, coordination and thinking skills.
Having a designated area which facilitates dance, movement and music also enables children to express their emotions and feelings. Just think of the song ‘If you’ve happy and you know it clap your hands’.
Maths and Numbers
As maths and numbers are a vital component of the world, most centres will have devoted several parts of their premises to them.
This should take the form of charts and posters, but also several counting devices, puzzles and toys.
All of which are designed to assist children with the development of life skills. As well as their ability to problem solve, measure, weigh, understand sizes and shapes and enhance their levels of spatial awareness.
Sand and Water Play
Whenever you take them to the beach, children always have an absolute ball on the sand and water. With this in mind, most early education centres have some kind of set up that includes them both.
Sand and water are another great way for children to develop their science and maths skills. Not to mention creativity when it comes to building sandcastles.
They have also been proven to be effective in calming down children’s bodies and minds as well.
In addition, both also offer different temperature and textural experiences, which helps preschoolers to understand and acknowledge sensory variation, such as water is wet and can be hot or cold, and sand is grainy, but sticks together when wet.
Benefits of sending your child to an Early Learning Environment
Now that you are aware of what an early learning environment is, and how they are generally set up, a perfectly reasonable question to ask is ‘what are the benefits of sending my child to one of them?’.
Well, the truth is there are several benefits your child can enjoy by attending a place such as this, which include the following:
1. They’ll develop good habits
Not only do daily routines make children feel safe and secure, they also are a fantastic way of teaching them good habits like sanitising their hands, blowing their nose properly, packing their bags and putting things away.
Children who know what the pattern of the day will look like generally are more likely to feel settled, calm and enjoy good, elongated patterns of sleep.
The more they are exposed to routines like this, the more they will start to take ownership of these tasks as they get older.
In this respect, childcare is an essential tool for helping your child form good routines.
The best educators are aware of what skills your child needs help to develop and will use several different techniques to help progress them in a structured, fun and safe environment.
This in turn benefits your family as a whole, as you will be able to spend less energy on checking your child for not cooperating, and more quality time just enjoying their company.
2. They’ll develop literacy and numeracy skills
It is well known that excellent literacy and numeracy skills form a solid foundation for a child’s educational development.
While you might think this just takes the form of reading, counting and writing, it also involves other aspects too.
For instance, literary skills can also be learnt just by listening to stories, drawing shapes and images on paper, and talking about images they see. While numeracy skills can also be improved by signing, playing musical instruments, or pouring sand into different sized jars, tubs or containers.
Furthermore, both the literacy and numeracy skills your child obtains prior to starting school have been shown to have a significant and very favourable impact on their later academic success.
3. They’ll develop emotional resilience
By sending your children to an early learning centre, you are given them a head start when it comes to formulating and progressing their social skills. This is important as it assists them to form strong and healthy relationships with other people.
As they will be exposed to plenty of other children, they will have to develop an understanding of others and how to get along with them. This is particularly true when it comes to concepts like sharing, taking turns, communicating their ideas, listening to others and becoming independent.
The overall result of this is that your child will develop their emotional resilience, as well as use these skills to form a sense of identity, as well as friendships with others as they get older.
Several studies have suggested that children aged 2 –3 who were enrolled in childcare were more likely to have a better hold on their emotions and be more excited about going to school than those who didn’t.
Likewise, other research has indicated that parents may even benefit from sending their children to early learning centres. This is because they often form strong emotional and social bonds, with other parents whose children attend them.
4. They’ll enjoy a successful future
One 30-year survey in the USA has suggested that adults who went to a pre-school learning environment between the ages of 0-5 are more likely to graduate from university and be continuously employed in later life.
So, it is entirely possible that the skills your child learns at these centres in the early part of their life, can be a critical success factor for their academic, as well as social and emotional performance as they get older.
Indeed, other research has stated that children who do not attend an early educational learning environment are significantly more likely to start school with a reduced level of developmental as compared to their peers.
5. They’ll develop a thirst for learning
Top quality early learning environments, especially like this one at Gowrie NSW, provide your child with cognitive and social experiences . This helps them to become strong and independent and also develop a love of learning.
Notably, this doesn’t just manifest itself in terms of academia. But also with regards to how things work in the everyday world.
These skills are important as it will help children to discover what they like and dislike, as well as what excites or bores them.
It also helps them to create a desire for preferences too.