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The most critical time in child development is the period between childbirth and the age of 8. This is when the human brain develops fast and almost to the fullest. This is also where the development of intelligence, personality, and social behavior takes shape.
Generally, when we talk about 'early childhood', this would usually refer to 'pre-school' age or before the age of 5. (In the U.S., children are obliged by law to undergo mandated education from the age of 5 onwards.) However, child development experts define 'early childhood' as the period from birth to 8 years old. For purposes of this discussion, we shall divide this period into:
a) Infancy stage where, under the care of their parents, children learn to walk and talk as well as develop their 'first sense of self'. Here the parents play the crucial role as the children's first and best teachers.
b) Preschool stage (from 3 years to 5 years) where children get their first taste of semi-formal education, only this time, it will be outside their homes and through daycare centers and preschools under mostly playful environments. There are no mandatory public preschools in the U.S. What we have is only the federally funded 'Head Start' preschool program for children of low income families.
c) Kindergarten to Grade 2 stage where children start attending the more formal compulsory schooling beginning at the age of 5.
Children need to go through a continuing, comprehensive and progressive development program which should cover
1) Social aspects - the ability to associate with others, play and share with them, and create and nurture lasting relationships;
2) Physical development or development of motor skills;
3) Creative skills or the development of the children's talents in music, art, reading, writing, singing and other creative talents;
4) Intellectual Skills - the ability to discern and make sense of the things around them
5) Emotional Development - acquiring self-confidence and the ability to understand and cope with feelings.
There are countless online resources available to parents and educators alike as far as early childhood development and education are concerned. Here are some of them.
Kid's Health From Nemours - Established in 1936, this non-profit organization is one of the largest and is devoted to children's health. This site is one of the most visited and contains information about health, development, and behavior from before the child is born up to teen years.
HealthyChildren.Org - This is a website established by the American Society of Pediatricians which is dedicated to parenting and is powered by 60,000 pediatricians from all over the country. The organization aims to provide information on physical, mental, and social health of children.
Kids Learning Station - This site provides basic concepts and worksheets for preschoolers to learn same and different, size, opposites, thinking skills, go -together, and many more.
National Network for Child Care - This site offers 1,000 publications and resources about child care.
Kidsparks - Contains tons of activity pages and curriculums for toddlers and preschoolers.
Preschool Academy - An all in one portal to online resources for preschoolers, parents and teachers.
Little Worksheets - This site has a fantastic selection of free printable worksheets for all lower "Little Levels". Preschool through grade one. A website created by kindergarten teachers for kindergarten teachers. You will not only get a wealth of valuable kindergarten resources, you may also create your own classroom website here.
Internet4classrooms- A comprehensive website that offers resources for all grade level from kindergarten upwards. They provide online practice modules assessment assistance to help students prepare for tests and final course exams.
K-3 Teacher Resources - Provides worksheets, ideas and other resources for teachers and hand-on parents.
There more online resources for both parents and teachers alike relative to early childhood education. They just have to be patient and persevere in this pursuit. They should never forget that if the child's fundamental abilities and skills are not well established from the start, the learning potential could be adversely affected for good.