Early Childhood

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About

Early childhood designates the period of human development from prenatal/birth through the transition from home or early childhood care and development centres, into the early primary grades (until 8 years of age).[1][2] Early childhood is the period of development in a human life when individuals develop most rapidly. Though each individual child develops at its own pace, all children progress through an identifiable sequence of physical, cognitive, and emotional growth and change.[3]

The degree and qualtiy of nurture and care received during early childhood affects child survival, health outcomes, it may decreasee or increase the likelihood of diseases and illnesses and can impact on the level of cognitive, linguistic, emoiotional social skills attained. Well-nurtured children have higher chances of performing well in school, they have better self-esteem during their youth and are more likely to become productive members of society. The Under-Five Mortality Rate is a good indicator of how important early childhood care and nurture is for child survival. Nonetheless measuring survival does not offer insight into the level of development achieved in the different areas. According to UNICEF, at least 10 per cent of all children, over 200 million in all, suffer some form of physical and/or mental disability or developmental delay (significantly low cognitive ability). The number of children suffering from diminished learning capabilities and other disadvantages limiting their overall prospects of reaching their full potential is even larger. The first three years are the most crucial for survival and ensuring positive outcomes later on in life. Health and the stimulation of the brain is crucial in this period. [4][5]

Initiatives for improved early childhood education and care  are considered crucial to assure children's best start into life, including good health and the most favourable brain development possible.

Development stages

Development stages according to The World Bank.[6] UNICEF reoprts the prenatal stage as being important to child development because poor nutrition and ill health of the mother can lead to low birth weight in her children, putting them at greater risk of developmental delay, malnutrition, and death.[7]

Age Range
What they do
What they need
Birth to 3 months
At this age, children begin to smile, track people and objects with their eyes, they may distinguish between faces and bright colors, they reach for things, they discover their hands and feet, lift their heads and turn towards sound. They cry but are often soothed when held.
Protection from physical danger, adequate nutrition, adequate health care, (immunization, oral rehydration therapy, hygiene), motor and sensory stimulation, appropriate language stimulation, responsive, sensitive parenting.
4 to 6 months
At this age, children smile often and they recognise their parents and older siblings. They repeat actions with interesting results, listen intently, respond when spoken to, laugh, gurgle, imitate sounds, explore hands and feet, put objects in mouth, sit when propped, roll over, scoot, bounce, grasp objects without using thumb.
Protection from physical danger, adequate nutrition, adequate health care, (immunization, oral rehydration therapy, hygiene), motor and sensory stimulation, appropriate language stimulation, responsive, sensitive parenting.
7 to 12 months
At this age, children remember simple events, identify themselves, body parts, familiar voices, understand own name, other common words, say first meaningful words, explore, bang, shake objects, find hidden objects, put objects in containers, sit alone, creep, pull themselves up to stand, walk, may seem shy or upset with strangers.
Protection from physical danger, adequate nutrition, adequate health care, (immunization, oral rehydration therapy, hygiene), motor and sensory stimulation, appropriate language stimulation, responsive, sensitive parenting.
1 to 2 years
At this age, children imitate adult actions, speak and understand words and ideas, enjoy stories and experimenting with objects, walk steadily, climb stairs, run, assert independence, but prefer familiar people, recognize ownership of objects, develop friendships, solve problems, show pride in accomplishments, like to help with tasks, begin pretend play.
In addition to needs from previous years, children at this age require support in the following: acquiring motor, language, and thinking skills, developing independence, learning self-control, opportunities for play and exploration, play with other children. Health care must also include deworming.
2 to 3 1/2 years

At this age, children enjoy learning new skills, they learn language rapidly, are always on the go, gain control of hands and fingers, are easily frustrated, act more independently, but are still dependent.

In addition to needs from previous years, children at this age require opportunities to do the following: make choices, engage in dramatic play, read increasingly complex books, sing favorite songs, work simple puzzles.
3 1/2 to 5 years
At this age, children have a longer attention span, act silly & boisterous, may use shocking language, talk a lot, ask many questions, want real adult things, keep art projects, test physical skills and courage with caution, reveal feeling in dramatic play, like to play with friends, do not like to lose, share and take turns sometimes.
In addition to needs from previous years, children at this age require opportunities to do the following: develop fine motor skills, continue expanding language skills by talking, reading, and singing, learn cooperation by helping and sharing, experiment with pre-writing and pre-reading skills.
5 to 8 years
At this age, children grow curious about people and how the world works, show an increasing interest in numbers, letters, reading and writing, become more and more interested in final products, gain more confidence in physical skills, use words to express feeling and to cope, like grown-up activities, become more outgoing, play cooperatively.
In addition to needs from previous years, children at this age require opportunities to do the following: develop numeracy and reading skills, engage in problem-solving, practice teamwork, develop sense of personal competency, practice questioning and observing, acquire basic life skills, attend basic education.


See also

Early Childhood Education and Care

Contemporary Issues in Early Childhood

International Journal of Early Childhood

Early Development Index

OMEP World Organization for Early Childhood Education

Education

References

  1. The Consultative Group on Early Childhood Care and Development (2010), Early Chilhood Care and Development. Retrieved June 17, 2011 from http://www.ecdgroup.com/pdfs/ECCD_Definition_2010_final.pdf
  2. UNESCO, "Early Childhood Care and Education", retrieved on June, 20, 2011, from: http://www.unesco.org/new/en/education/themes/strengthening-education-systems/early-childhood/
  3. The World Bank, "What is Early Child Development?", Retrieved on June, 20, 2011 from: http://go.worldbank.org/BJA2BPVW91
  4. UNICEF,"Facts on Children: Early Childhood", retrieved on June, 20, 2011 from: http://www.unicef.org/earlychildhood/9475.html
  5. The Organization of American States (OAS), (2010), "Early Childhood: A look from the neuroeducation perspective". Available at: http://portal.oas.org/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=6uU5iDgQ3pg%3d&tabid=239
  6. Table replicated from: The World Bank, "What is Early Child Development?", Retrieved on June, 20, 2011 from: http://go.worldbank.org/BJA2BPVW91
  7. UNICEF,"Facts on Children: Early Chilhood", retrieved on June, 20, 2011 from: http://www.unicef.org/earlychildhood/9475.html

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