What Is Early Childhood Development?

Early childhood development involves a child's overall emotional, physical, and educational growth over a period of his or her first five or six years of life.

Early childhood development involves a child's overall emotional, physical, and educational growth over a period of his or her first five or six years of life. This development begins at birth and extends into a child's early academic years. Why is early childhood development so important?

There are a variety of reasons why each child should be encouraged to develop emotionally, physically, and educationally. Studies have shown that children who followed a successful early childhood plan were more apt to remain in school and become successful adults later in life. In other words, parents, educators, community leaders, physicians, and everyone else who is involved in some way in a child's life should not discredit the importance of focusing on that child when he is an infant, toddler, and young child.

When a baby is born, his first few years of life bring rapid changes, including emotional development, physical growth, and intellectual learning. Because of this, children who are at a disadvantage in any or all of these issues may suffer serious consequences for years to come. Babies are aware of the world around them, and as they grow and develop, they strive to emulate the people in their lives. For this reason, the right stimulation is so important for adequate growth and development in all areas of a child's life.

Where does the early childhood development come from? Every person who plays a role in a child's life also plays a role in that child's early childhood development. It stands to reason, then, that if a parent is uneducated, illiterate, or living in or below poverty level, then that parent will have a difficult time helping her child develop to his full potential. Not only must the focus be placed on the child, but also attention should be placed on that child's home environment.

If a child is living in poverty conditions, efforts must be made to help the entire family, so that the child has the best chance of rising above his circumstances and becoming a viable and contributing member of society. This is where community and educational involvement should play an important role in that child's life. Both the community and the school should track indigent families and reach out to children who might otherwise slip through the cracks. An example of this is the federally funded Head Start programs that are scattered throughout the nation. The Head Start programs provide safe, educational havens for children of lower income families.

Once a child has been identified as being disadvantaged, a community and the local school district should step-in and do what the parent may not be able to do, which is educate that child. Success should begin when a child is very young, and once that success has been fostered, that child will have a better chance of becoming an educated and successful member of the community. Success will open so many doors for that child and build his self-esteem.

What about children who are not from indigent and poverty-stricken families? Early childhood development is just as important because even children from affluent homes can lack certain emotional, physical, and intellectual skills.

For a child to have the best chance of success, he should begin learning and developing at a young age. That development should continue as he grows and matures. Parents, clergy, schools, community, and physicians can all play primary roles in seeing that each child has the best chance of developing. The future lies in these children, and early childhood is essential for a good beginning.

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