Benefits of Early Childhood Education

High quality early childhood education gives children the best start in life. It provides important opportunities to learn and develop. Early childhood education can help your child make friends, develop independence and learn new routines. It also supports their transition to school. Use the ECE finder tool to find quality early childhood education and care services in NSW.

Helping brain development in young children

Children's brains are influenced by both their genes and their environment. Babies are born ready to learn, with around 90 percent of brain development occurring in the first five years of life. The early years are important, as how the brain grows is strongly influenced by what's happening in a child's environment and their interactions with the people around them.

Vision and hearing pathways develop first, followed by early language skills and higher cognitive functions. A child's vocabulary often quadruples between ages two and four. These connections become more complex over time as children grow, and influencing brain development to create positive learning behaviours from an early age is much easier than rewriting it later.

Research shows that children who participate in quality preschool programs are more likely to arrive at school equipped with the social, cognitive and emotional skills they need to help them to continue learning. These benefits extend well beyond primary school. Higher levels of educational success, employment and social skills have all been linked to moderate levels of participation in quality early childhood education.

A nurse voices the benefits of early childhood education

- [Child] Early childhood education is a place where children grow to learn and learn to grow.

- Play is the basis for a child's future development, representational play, the imaginary play. These foundations set up that child for adult life.

- [Educator] and purple.

- [Child 2] Purple.

- Early education is crucial for these areas of development because it gives the children opportunity and builds the foundations that are needed for future success and health and learning outcomes. Now we have the research to show that a child's brain is 90% developed by the age of five. And in that time, the first 2000 days framework, there is so much development that has to go on. Early education has to be the key. These centres are gold for development because they do offer these opportunities for all areas of a child's development, fine motor skills, with drawing, colouring in and painting, for gross motor skills, for jumping and playing and dancing around, as well as their social and emotional skills.

- [Woman] How can we help Owen to get that to stand up all by itself?

- [Melissa] So they are learning to be with others, they are learning to work with others and in groups, they are learning to share, take turns, listen to directions, people giving them boundaries and these are really foundational for the future. So confidence and independence is a big skill for a child to transition to school with. And if they've had that exposure to these experiences in early childhood education, that will certainly help that transition into the school environment We work in partnership, so if a parent does have a concern about their child, that concern is taken seriously and the child and family health nurse will escalate. We've got questionnaires where we check their development in more detail and make referrals.

Brighter Beginnings: the first 2000 days

Brighter Beginnings is a NSW Government initiative to improve the lives and experience of parents and families in the first 2000 days of their child’s life and better support all children to achieve the best start in life.

Check out the Brighter Beginnings step by step guides for parents and carers of young children in NSW who have not yet started primary school.

As part of Brighter Beginnings, the NSW Department of Education has launched a public awareness campaign ‘Grow to Learn, Learn to Grow’. The campaign showcases the benefits of early childhood education and provide families with the information they need to enrol their children in quality early childhood education services on one convenient site that parents can use to find a service near their home or work.

Making friends

From the ages of three to five, most children want to play with others their age, and can think about the feelings of others at an initial level. At this age, children learn how to play with others, and might have a ‘best friend’.

In early childhood education, children are encouraged to share and play with their peers. Through these interactions they learn to develop important interpersonal qualities such as empathy and cooperation which will help them get along with others in preschool and beyond.

By spending time with their peers, children learn to include ideas from others in their play, and start to understand each other’s feelings. Young children are naturally egocentric, so learning skills such as empathy can be challenging, but the good news is they can learn a lot from watching and interacting with their peers. These early years social skills can help your child develop friends through their whole life.

Children voice the benefits of early childhood education

- I like painting and doing all of the creating stuff.

- I like stories because they have different pictures in them.

- I like playing with the pillow.

- Going to the sand pit.

- Playing with lego.

- We have an opportunity at this age to be able to ignite their passion for learning so that when they go to school, the foundation is laid and they already want to know things, they already want to be engaged in education.

- Look how big this is Hiro.

- Yeah.

- My favourite friends are Isaac and Imogen.

- Rosalyn and Ayushi.

- I play with Niro and Remy.

- I would definitely say the educators are a bit like extended family. I feel like we have really open dialogue with them. We have really nice conversations.

- I would tell them you should go to preschool instead of staying home. 'Cause you're gonna make new friends!

Developing independence

For many children, participating in early childhood education is the first significant amount of time they spend away from their family. Being in a new environment, away from home, can help children to build their confidence and discover their identity.

As part of a child’s growing independence, they develop key self-regulation skills between the ages of three and five years old. These skills may include concentrating, sharing and taking turns. For example, toddlers may show self-regulation by waiting to play with a toy, or by paying attention to someone who is talking to them.

Self-regulation skills are important to help children develop confidence and independence, allowing them to grow and understand who they are, and to form friendships. Parents, carers and early childhood educators are all important role models for demonstrating healthy methods of self-regulation.

Parents voice the benefits of early childhood education

- The children have had a huge amount of independence where we don't actually get to put the school bags away anymore and the children do.

- He's just grown in so many ways... confidence, socially.

- And she has started self-feeding and she now knows how to share because what this centre had provided her is confidence

- We feel that it's important to start at this ground level to prepare her for the future.

- It's really important. It does provide students with a lot of foundational skills that they'll need to learn in their literacy, numeracy, socialisation, and collaborative skills when they move into primary school.

- Lots of other learning stuff that we wouldn't do at home that they would do here.

- Gave her more opportunity to explore things and she's more creative and more curious about the world.

- She's showing that she's very musical as well, which is something that we never taught her.

- [Wolski] The importance of students having the ability to interact with students from other cultures can't be understated. It's very important for them to build those relationships with those students.

- [Christina] I think it's really important when looking for a preschool there is a quality rating system.

- [Darna] It will give you the ability to make a really good decision about where to send your child.

- [Christina] It's more of a holistic rating system where it's looking at the environment of the school, the leadership of the teachers.

- The educators here are highly trained. They're professionals. They're also passionate educators.

- [Christopher] And they have what they do at heart and we feel very much at home with them.

- [Rachel] And I've seen so many kids grow here. They have wonderful, wonderful teachers here.  

Learning new routines

By attending early education, your child can learn to adapt to a new routine outside the home. Routines can positively influence a child’s emotional and cognitive development, and knowing what to expect encourages them to feel secure and comfortable.

Routines can help children manage their expectations of their environment, and reduce problematic behaviours such as temper tantrums. When developing daily routines, early childhood teachers and educators will consider a mix of activities that are active/passive, indoor/outdoor, and child-directed/adult-directed.

Routines are also planned according to children’s ages to make time for naps, incorporate any individual requirements or medical needs, and to accommodate their attention spans and other aged-based needs.

Supporting transition to school

Early childhood education supports your child’s transition to primary school. It prepares children in both informal and formal ways, such as engaging in a range of Transition to School activities. Children who experience a positive transition to school are more likely to feel comfortable, relaxed and motivated to learn. This helps them form positive relationships with others, both children and educators, and develop a sense of belonging within the school.

A kindergarten teacher voices the benefits of early childhood education

- [Child] Early childhood education, is the place where children grow to learn and learn to grow.

- I've been a teacher for seven or eight years. What I love most particularly in early education is the growth that you can see in the children from the start of the year to the end of the year.

- Even a koala?

- I think the benefits of early childhood education from the point of view of the kindergarten teachers is they are socially and emotionally in a better frame of mind to undertake all the learning activities that we put out for them. The first 2000 days of life is really important for young children because 90% of their brain development occurs. The attendance in early childhood education settings gives them that exposure when they come to primary school to really have that good foundational skills when they move into formal education in kindergarten and beyond. Okay, so have a look. This is where you're going to come to kindergarten next year. When they first attend in term one students are so excited to be at big school. It can be quite overwhelming for them, but I think if they've had a quality transition to school program the year before, it really pays dividends for term one for kindergarten teachers and the classroom in general.

- Really helped with independence for all of the kids here.

- Where we don't actually get to put the school bags away anymore and the children do.

- Going to the bathroom was another issue for him, he was not confident and shy but he had a good time when the teachers have taught him how to do few things.

- [Matt] I think the students that had been through early childhood education definitely come to school with a lot more confidence. It shows in the way that they undertake those learning activities and they can collaborate with their peers.

- But also to be in an environment where he has a lot of different friends that share similar interests but they can also enjoy the differences as well.

- Which one is dark green?

- This is dark green and this is dark green.

- So if any of my friends had a four year old son or daughter my advice would be to attend a formal early childhood setting and look at the quality rating of the centre, to go in and take a look and see what kind of activities are being run in there.
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