Early childhood programs are an important first step towards compulsory schooling, giving children a head start on their education and the skills necessary to succeed in their first year of school. You may have heard about their benefits, as well as some of the options on offer. If you're considering enrolling your child in one of these programs, read on.
What are early childhood programs?
Early childhood programs are available to children in the year before they start school and are designed to provide the foundational skills, knowledge and independence that need to have been developed in order to commence primary school. Programs are offered by a range of organisations, including day care centres, community kindergartens and schools. They usually enrol children at the age of four, but many also offer programs for children from the age of three.
The names of early childhood programs vary between the states and territories, as well as between individual providers, so you may be familiar with one of the following:
- kindergarten offered in states other than New South Wales, where this is the name of the first year of formal schooling
- Early Learning Centre (ELC)
- pre-Prep offered by schools that teach all the way up to Year 12, which are often referred to as P 12, K 12 or ELC 12 schools.
Some programs allow children to attend only a few days a week, while others enrol children for the full five days. Schools that offer ELC or pre-Prep programs provide a great option for parents who would like their child to complete all compulsory schooling in a single school, as well as those with older children who are already enrolled there. Early childhood programs are not compulsory in New South Wales, Victoria or Queensland, but are highly recommended as preparation for formal schooling.
What are the benefits of early childhood programs?
- Enthusiasm for learning and socialising: Early childhood programs introduce children to the learning environment in a fun and interactive way, following a learning through play' philosophy. Children are taught and supported by qualified early childhood educators. The goal is for kids to approach learning and interacting with others with a sense of enthusiasm, eagerly anticipating each day knowing that they will learn and experience new things.
- Skill development: Participating in an early childhood program lays the foundations for a number of skills from reading, writing and language to fine motor skills and communication. Children develop basic literacy and numeracy skills through activities like reading stories and counting objects, while arts and craft activities like drawing and painting help with the development of fine motor skills. These skills are essential for further years of learning and will be beneficial to your child when they begin formal schooling.
- Social and emotional growth: Early childhood programs provide ample opportunity for both social and emotional growth. They are a great way to ease kids into being away from their parents and the familiarity of home, and allow them to develop some independence and self-confidence before heading off to school. They also provide the opportunity to make new friends and teach kids to be self-aware and respectful towards others something that is particularly beneficial for only children, who may not be used to the idea of sharing their toys with others.
Visit the following government websites for more information about early childhood programs in your state: