When you drop your infant, toddler, or preschooler off to spend the day at childcare, you expect the staff to engage with him or her throughout the day to enhance learning. Children of all ages need intellectual stimulation in a caring, supportive environment in order to thrive. Unfortunately, some early childhood centers offer little more than babysitting services. The staff looks after your child in your absence, but that is about it. That is why it is vital to do your research to ensure that your little one receives the social, physical, and intellectual development necessary to set the stage for future school success.
How to Evaluate Curriculum in an Early Childhood Education Program
The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) is an organization dedicated to the educational needs of children from birth through age eight. In a recent position statement, the NAEYC discussed several key components that must be present in an effective early childhood curriculum program. In order to be effective, the curriculum must be thoughtfully planned with the ages and developmental stages of each child in mind. A comprehensive curriculum program should also be culturally sensitive, engaging, and challenging, and produce tangible, measurable results.
Another key component of a successful early childhood curriculum program is that it builds on skills a child already knows. For example, a child who has mastered counting to five needs opportunities to put this skill into practice. Teachers can encourage learning by asking the child to choose five items from the toy shelf and have him or her count them out before delivering them to the teacher. The teaching must be intentional and encourage children to learn through exploration.
Social Development is Important
While you naturally want your child to learn academic skills, his or her social development is just as important. Children thrive in an environment where they trust their caregivers and are encouraged to develop empathy for their classmates. This can only happen when teachers respect their young students as individuals with unique personalities just as they themselves have. Teachers don’t have to be engaged with the children every minute, but they should seek ways to make a personal connection outside of structured learning time.
When you tour an early learning center, be certain to ask about the education and experience of the teachers with whom your child will spend the most time. It is essential that your child’s earliest teachers have a realistic sense of early childhood development. This can only be gained through in-depth learning at the college level and hands-on experience with groups of small children. Since all kids exhibit challenging behavior at times, you don’t want your child paired with a teacher who will turn the behavior into a power struggle.
Make Sure the Center is a Good Fit for Your Family
You can find a program with an excellent curriculum that encourages age-appropriate social development and still not has it right for your family. When you go for a tour, be certain to ask about hours of operation, vacation policies, sick policies, and other important questions about the school’s administration. You should get this information in writing in case there is a question or conflict at some point in the future.