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Judi Holland: What to look for in an early childhood program

Judi Holland/For the Daily Press

The early years — birth through age 8 — are essential learning years, and qualified early childhood professionals enhance how our children learn, develop and build the skills necessary to get along with others and flourish in school and life. The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) offers tips to help parents choose “a safe, nurturing, and stimulating environment for their young children.”

A caring place for your infant

Caregivers ensure your baby’s safety and cultivate their physical, social, emotional and intellectual development. By connecting with warm, caring adults at the start of life, babies begin to develop the capability to bond with others. Good teachers understand that babies grow and learn best when they feel secure; adult responses to infants must be consistent. Infants acquire trust and security when they know their teachers will be right there to help if they are hungry, wet or uncomfortable. For infants, a high-quality program means group size is limited, each infant is assigned one primary caregiver, teachers show warmth and support, teachers stay alert to babies’ cues, teachers follow standards, teachers talk and sing to children, and parents are welcome at all times.

A caring place for your toddler

Toddlers also need to feel safe and secure so they can develop a love of learning. Relationships with caring adults give toddlers the self-assurance to experiment as they grow. A toddler curriculum starts with helpful teachers and a developmentally appropriate program — one that offers safe, stimulating and significant materials and experiences that strengthen children’s development and learning. Toddlers learn best when they feel secure; the more secure they feel, the more they are eager to take risks, attempt new things and develop friendships with others. Toddlers also learn as they engage in meaningful activities that offer just enough challenges to foster learning. Skilled teachers recognize that there is a wide span of abilities in children during their first three years of life. “Children will reach developmental milestones when they are confident and ready.” For toddlers, a high-quality program means children stay with a primary teacher, teachers respond to a toddler’s uniqueness, teachers promptly respond to children’s cries, teachers read and sing to children, teachers engage toddlers in everyday routines like feeding and dressing, and parents are welcome at all times.

A caring place for your preschooler

Children ages 3 to 5 follow their own unique developmental patterns, which will vary from child to child. Preschoolers should feel that their teachers like having them around. These children learn best when activities and materials offer just enough challenge — they are not too easy to lead to boredom but not so difficult that they lead to frustration. Preschoolers need materials and equipment that will kindle their interest: they flourish when they are able to experiment, test things out for themselves and draw their own conclusions. In a quality preschool classroom, teachers focus on all areas of learning at a time. They use an integrated curriculum that covers language and literacy skills, mathematics and science, social studies, art, music, drama and dance. For preschoolers, a high-quality program means children follow their own developmental patterns, children feel safe and secure, children have lots of opportunities to play, teachers nurture children’s language development, and children are read to daily.

Visit http://families.naeyc.org/what-to-look-for-in-a-programhttp://families.naeyc.org/what-to-look-for-in-a-program for additional information on what to look for in an infant program, a toddler program and a preschool program. for additional information on what to look for in an infant program, a toddler program and a preschool program.

http://families.naeyc.org/what-to-look-for-in-a-program for additional information on what to look for in an infant program, a toddler program and a preschool program.

Judi Holland is the program director for Early Childhood Education at CNCC. Reach her at judi.holland@cncc.edu or 970-824-1154.Judi Holland is the program director for Early Childhood Education at CNCC. Reach her at judi.holland@cncc.edu or 970-824-1154.Judi Holland is the program director for Early Childhood Education at CNCC. Reach her at judi.holland@cncc.edu or 970-824-1154.


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