What Is Early Childhood Development?

Early Childhood is the period between one and five years of age, including both the toddler and preschool years. Children’s bodies and brains grow rapidly during this period of life.

In South Africa, Early childhood development refers to the many skills and milestones that they expect children to reach by the time they reach the age of nine. These milestones include learning how to run, how to talk using simple sentences and how to play with others. Early Childhood Development includes the cognitive, emotional, social and physical education of children. In most cases, this type of development occurs naturally when parents and children spend time playing; preparing dinner or looking at books together. Preschools and Day care programs provide activities based on early childhood development guidelines.

 Private and NGO providers traditionally cater for children under the official school-going age, while the Department of Education is currently responsible for children from Grades 1 to 3, and increasingly Grade R. One of the National Department of Education’s current targets was to implement Grade R in all public primary schools by 2010.

General responsibilities of a preschool teacher or day care worker

They must provide a wonderful learning environment for the children, teach them how to interact with others and help them with their daily needs. The preschool teacher will instruct them in basic educational programs, teach them to be creative and provide them with a safe and caring environment to learn and grow.

Specific duties of a preschool teacher or day care worker

With regard to educational aspects, the preschool teacher must prepare daily lesson plans to help the children start learning basic education to get them ready for primary school. The preschool teacher will have a set educational plan each day, which the children will be involved with as a group.

The preschool teacher must also prepare creative activities for the children to complete each day. It is important that creativity is a big part of the preschool experience and preschool teachers will prepare various activities for the children to engage in. Things such as arts and crafts, music and imagination will all play a big role in the creative learning process.

One who is a preschool teacher must also prepare outdoor activities and games for the students. This will help them improve their coordination and motor skills. With that said, the preschool teacher must ensure a safe play environment for the children to engage in activities within.

A preschool teacher must also cater to the basic needs of the children. One who oversees a preschool class must feed the children, serve them beverages and help them with their bathroom needs. They must ensure that they provide a comfortable, nurturing environment for the little ones within their care.

Along with teaching the children various things, the preschool teacher must also monitor their development. It is important to know which children are doing fine and which ones may need a little extra help. This they do by monitoring progress and making notes of the progress of each child.

The preschool teacher is also responsible for meeting with other education professionals and parents of the children. During these meetings, the preschool teacher will discuss their lesson plans, what they are doing to improve their classroom techniques and how each of the children is doing with their progress.

Career opportunities

Early Childhood education offers a variety of job opportunities as well as a number of specialisation areas. Preschool teachers can work in a variety of locations, such as private or franchised day care facilities, private or public preschools, and employee sponsored daycares. The following list is by no means exhausted, but it will give you an indication of where you can go.

  • Teacher

Early childhood educators have the special challenge of preparing pre-school and day care children for their formal educations in school and informal education in life. It is in these first two critical years that children will build the foundation for themselves socially as well as academically.

  • Social Worker/Therapist

These positions are in high demand because of the complex nature of a child’s world in the 21st century. Most children are not sheltered from the effects of divorce, domestic abuse and other home traumas. There are also many more expectations for children today concerning their level of knowledge. Most 5-year-olds know the basics of computer and cell phone use. They have a familiarity with world events because of constant access to technological sources. Therapists can help children deal with the stress and related feelings of anxiety that confront them on a daily basis.

  • Special needs teacher

Some children need additional one-on-one help in learning specific skills. A trained specialist works with children on such skills as letter-naming, initial sounds, number recognition and other reading and math benchmarks. He/she addresses the specific needs of a particular child when regular classroom instruction is ineffective. They work with the teacher, tailoring a style of learning that fits the child. Special needs teachers are often former or retired teachers or professionals who trained in conducting academic intervention sessions.

  • Related careers

Au Pair

Speech therapist

Occupational therapist