Early childhood education has many roles in the life of a young child. Some are academic, but a large majority of them are considered “life skills.” Life skills are essential skills for healthy development and help children succeed as they continue to grow. In some ways, life skills are the skills that allow children to learn all the other things they need. The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) cites Ellen Galinsky’s book Mind in the Making as a primer of life skills for young children. Galinsky lists seven different essential skills to teach children, and we will touch on each of them today.
Focus and Self Control
Today’s world is full of noise and activity. While much of the technology that leads to this busyness has positive effects, it is becoming increasingly more difficult to focus and stay on task. Adding quiet activities to your child’s daily routine, such as reading books and building things together, encourages your child to slow down and learn to focus and accomplish tasks that require concentration. This simplicity can be implemented in early childhood education environments as well.
Small children are not naturally empathetic until ages 5 or 6. However, that does not mean they cannot practice understanding different points of view. Teaching children to be curious about the feelings and perspectives of others encourages kindness and compassion later in life. This enhances life skills in early childhood education. Additionally, asking your child questions about the world around them, including facial expressions, motivations, and feelings, brings the perspectives of others into their range of focus.
Communication skills go both ways, as children learn how to express their own thoughts and understand the expressions of others. Many of these social and emotional skills are developed with healthy practice. Therefore, taking time to speak and listen to your child daily with undivided attention facilitates your child’s developing communication. Over time a child learns to understand not only the words you use but also the other layers of social understanding, such as tone and facial expression.
Babies begin sorting things into categories from the very early months of their life. By classifying objects and experiences according to similarities and differences, children make sense of the world around them. These connections can be encouraged in early childhood education both at home and with outside caregivers. Additionally, small children make connections through simple sorting activities, such as laundry or the dishes, as well as more abstract connections like “what does this picture remind you of?”
Critical thinking skills are required for healthy risk-taking and decision making. Children learn to weigh the information they receive and test ideas before making decisions or commitments. Additionally, critical thinking grows through pretend play, cooperative learning, STEM projects, and outdoor physical exploration. The process of testing ideas, making mistakes, and correcting to try again is vital to learning critical thinking skills.
Taking on Challenges
The terms “resilience” and “growth mindset” are very popular in early childhood education circles today. And with good reason! Resilience allows a child to overcome frustration with the assurance that hard work will triumph over failure. Structuring a child’s environment to be safe but allow for risk and frustration gives children the opportunity to challenge themselves and learn that risks and perseverance pay off.
Self-Directed, Engaged Learning
To live a life of learning, children must develop the ability to teach themselves. Allowing children open-ended learning opportunities, such as free imaginative play and craft projects without instruction, encourages a child to engage with their learning. At the same time, modeling curiosity and the pursuit of ideas helps children learn the process of teaching themselves. Therefore, life skills in early childhood education are essential.
Life skills are the precursors to a successful academic career and life. Thus, when early childhood education emphasizes the development of these skills, students are far more prepared for elementary school and beyond. If you are looking for childcare that makes these life skills a goal for every student, consider Legacy Academy Sugarloaf. Call or visit today for more information.