Footsteps to Learning
Research has shown that many factors play a crucial role in a child's brain development from conception through the first five years. It's now well known that in addition to genes, the richness of a child's early environment will significantly determine later behavior and development.
Children in a poor-quality preschool environment tend to engage in more unfocused play, passive and aimless wandering, and aggressive behavior. In that kind of classroom environment, teachers, functioning as custodial caregivers, spend most of their time managing children by constantly redirecting them from unsafe, unacceptable, and aggressive behavior. On the other hand, a well-designed, rich, and interesting environment supports exploration and enables children to engage in more extended, focused, and self-directed play.
The skills that children acquire through active involvement with their environment during their first few years will form the foundation of their learning for the rest of their lives.
We have to understand that for young children, enjoyable play and education go hand in hand. Before they can learn all they want and need to learn, young children must learn "how to learn." They must figure out for themselves how to absorb information from the environment. Because each child has a unique learning style, this cannot be achieved through instruction. Through play and intellectually stimulating activities, children discover for themselves which strategies are most effective.
It is also proven that a young child's educational development is not akin to climbing a ladder, where reaching one rung is a signal to move immediately up to the next. Rather, it's more like building a pyramid, where the higher levels must be fully supported by the lower ones.
Therefore, during the early years of birth to five, children should be given the means and opportunities to build a strong foundation for later success in academic achievement.