early learning

What Are the Key Principles of Early Childhood Education?

Finding the right preschool for your child can feel overwhelming. You want to make sure you choose a program that sets them up for success in the early years. According to Kids Data, an estimated 51% of California children between the ages of three and five were enrolled in preschool or kindergarten in 2021. Of course, not all schools are equal in quality. It’s key to understand the core principles and best practices that make up a quality early learning experience. Here’s what you should look for as you check out different options and make this big decision.

Focus on Nurturing the Whole Child

The best early childhood programs take a whole-child approach that supports every area of development. That means looking at the full picture — socially, emotionally, physically, and intellectually. Programs designed with the whole child in mind find ways to nurture those key areas through activities and experiences. Make sure any programs you consider view your child as a unique individual and aim to meet their specific needs across all developmental domains. Having caregivers who take the time to get to know your child’s interests, strengths, and areas for growth makes a big difference.

Emphasize Learning Through Play

Play is how little ones naturally make sense of the world during the preschool years. It’s their “work” and the primary way they develop and learn best. Quality programs will allow for extended periods of child-led play with hands-on materials that spark curiosity and engagement. This gives your child the freedom to explore, problem-solve, get creative, move their body, and interact. Look for programs that let kids lead during play in thoughtfully set-up spaces. Age-appropriate materials and opportunities for playtime are essential for early learning.

Cultivate Nurturing Relationships

Warm, caring relationships with teachers provide the foundation for learning in early childhood. The best programs know strong bonds matter. Teachers should take time to truly get to know your child and make them feel seen. Small class sizes and low teacher-to-child ratios help teachers build connections. Prioritize places where you can tell teachers genuinely enjoy spending time with their students. It creates a nurturing environment where your child can confidently explore and learn.

Partner With Families

You know your little one better than anyone. That’s why quality programs collaborate with parents. They see you as part of the team! That means encouraging you to share insights about your child, volunteer in the classroom, and participate in special events. Strong family partnerships also mean regular communication about your child’s experiences and keeping you up-to-date on milestones. Find a preschool that welcomes you to engage and stay involved.

Hopefully these key principles give you a helpful starting point for finding the right fit for early learning for your child. Trust your parenting instincts as you check out programs. Contact Washington Ready Start Early Childhood Network today to schedule an appointment to learn more about our early childhood education program.

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