An Overview of Early Childhood Education

Children sit at a table with colorful toys
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Early Childhood Education is a term that refers to educational programs and strategies geared toward children from birth to the age of eight. This time period is widely considered the most vulnerable and crucial stage of a person's life. Early childhood education often focuses on guiding children to learn through play. The term commonly refers to preschool or infant/child care programs.

Early Childhood Education Philosophies

Learning through play is a common teaching philosophy for young children.

Jean Piaget developed the PILES theme to meet the physical, intellectual, language, emotional and social needs of children. Piaget's constructivist theory emphasizes hands-on educational experiences, giving children the chance to explore and manipulate objects.

Children in preschool learn both academic and social-based lessons. They prepare for school by learning letters, numbers, and how to write. They also learn sharing, cooperation, taking turns, and operating within a structured environment.

Scaffolding in Early Childhood Education

The scaffolding method of teaching is to offer more structure and support when a child is learning a new concept. The child may be taught something new by employing things they already know how to do. As in a scaffold that supports a building project, these supports can then be removed as the child learns the skill. This method is meant to build confidence while learning.

Early Childhood Education Careers

Careers in early childhood and education include:

  • Preschool Teacher: These teachers work with children ages three to five who are not yet in kindergarten. The educational requirements vary by state. Some require only a high school diploma and a certification, while others require a four-year degree.
  • Kindergarten Teacher: This position may be with a public or private school and may require a degree and certification, depending on the state.
  • Teacher for First, Second, and Third Grades: These elementary school positions are considered to be part of early childhood education. They teach a full range basic academic subjects to a class rather than specializing. A bachelor's degree is required and a certification may be needed, depending on the state.
  • Teacher Assistant or Paraeducator: The assistant works in the classroom under the direction of the lead teacher. Often they work with one or more students at a time. This position often does not require a degree.
  • Childcare Worker: Nannies, babysitters, and workers at childcare centers usually perform basic duties such as feeding and bathing in addition to play and activities that may be mentally stimulating. An associate's degree in early childhood development or a credential may result in a higher salary.
  • Childcare Center Administrator: The director of a childcare facility may be required by a state to have a bachelor's degree in Early Childhood Education or a certification in Child Development. This position trains and supervises the staff as well as performing the administrative duties of the facility.
  • Special Education Teacher: This position often requires additional certification beyond that for a teacher. The special education teacher would work with children who have special needs, including mental, physical, and emotional challenges.
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Lewis, Beth. "An Overview of Early Childhood Education." ThoughtCo, Apr. 14, 2018, thoughtco.com/early-childhood-education-2081636. Lewis, Beth. (2018, April 14). An Overview of Early Childhood Education. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/early-childhood-education-2081636 Lewis, Beth. "An Overview of Early Childhood Education." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/early-childhood-education-2081636 (accessed May 25, 2018).