Childhood education often focuses on children learning through play, based on the research and philosophy of Jean Piaget. This belief is centered on the “power of play”. It has been thought that children learn more efficiently and gain more knowledge through play-based activities such as dramatic play, art, and social games. This theory plays stems children’s natural curiosity and tendencies to “make believe”, mixing in educational lessons.

Preschool education and kindergarten emphasise learning around the ages of 3–6 years. The terms “day care” and “child care” do not convey the educational aspects, although many childcare centers are now using more educational approaches. The distinction between childcare centers and kindergartens has all but disappeared in countries that require staff in different early childhood facilities to have a teaching qualification.

Researchers and early childhood educators both view the parents as an integral part of the early childhood education process. Often educators refer to parents as the child’s “first and best teacher”.

Much of the first two years of life are spent in the creation of a child’s first “sense of self”; most children are able to differentiate between themselves and others by their second year. This is a crucial part of the child’s ability to determine how they should function in relation to other people.Early care must emphasise links to family, home culture, and home language by uniquely caring for each child.

Children who lack sufficient nurturing, nutrition, interaction with a parent or caregiver, and stimulus during this crucial period may be left with developmental deficits, as has been reported in Russian and Romanian orphanages. Children must receive attention and affection to develop in a healthy manner. There is a false belief that more hours of formal education for a very young child confers greater benefits than a balance between formal education and family time. A systematic, international review suggests that the benefits of early childhood education come from the experience of participation; more than 2.5 hours a day does not greatly add to child development outcomes, especially when it detracts from other experiences and family contact.

There are five different developmental domains of children which all relate to each other. They can be referred to as the SPICE of life:

Refers mostly to the ability to form attachments, play with others, cooperate, share, and create lasting relationships
Development of fine (small) and gross (large) motor skills
Learning to make sense of the physical world
Development of talents in areas such as music, art, writing, and reading
Development of self-awareness, self-confidence, and the ability to cope with and understand feelings

Psychosocial developments

Cognitive Development

According to Jean Piaget, there are four major stages of cognitive development:

This stage occurs between the ages of birth and two years of age. Intelligence is demonstrated through motor activity with limited use of symbols, including language; the infant’s knowledge of the world is primarily based on physical interactions and experiences.
The second stage occurs between the ages of 2–7 years. Intelligence is increasingly demonstrated through the use of symbols; memory and imagination are developed as language use matures. The typical thought process is nonlogical, non-reversible, and egocentric.
Concrete operations
This developmental state occurs between ages 7 and 12 (approximate). During this stage—characterised by conservation of number, length, liquid, mass, weight, area, and volume—intelligence is increasingly demonstrated through logical and systematic manipulation of symbols relating to concrete objects. Thinking becomes operational, reversible, and less egocentric.
Formal operations
This final stage of cognitive development takes place from ages 12 and beyond. During this stage, intelligence is demonstrated through the logical use of symbols related to abstract concepts. Thinking becomes abstract, hypothetical, and, early on, egocentric. It is believed that the majority of people never complete this stage.

Emotional development

Emotional development concerns the child’s increasing awareness and control of their feelings and how they react to them in a given situation.

Social development

Social development concerns the child’s identity, relationships with others, and understanding of their place within a social environment.

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