In June 2011, Alberta Health and Wellness and the Office of the Chief Medical Officer of Health released a document entitled, “Let’s Talk About the Early Years.” This major report highlighted the importance of early childhood development on life-long health, well-being, learning and behaviour. It is a powerful reminder of the need to focus on children’s early years. Ensuring a high quality environment and positive experiences within the first five years of a child’s life is essential in the development of physical, emotional and social abilities.
Late last year, TD Bank released a report indicating that investing in early education programs has far reaching advantages including helping Canada address the major economical threats in the future. Children accessing high quality early learning programming are more likely to remain in school and succeed. They are also less likely to smoke, drink alcohol, and use drugs and more likely to own a home and a car later on. The evidence is quite clear on the health, social and educational benefits of early learning.
But what constitutes a strong early learning program? I would have chuckled if it would not have been too sad watching parents in the States stampede each other to get their children registered into an “engineer” based kindergarten program. Subjecting children to this type of high stress at such a young age is hardly supported in research. Instead, an environment where play is encouraged is essential to children’s development. Play develops emotional resilience, adaptability, self-control and confidence. Children learning through play explore and cultivate skills necessary for life long success. Programs that encourage play allow children to discover and interact with activities and peers while building a solid foundation of curiosity, creativity, thinking and problem solving skills.
Another aspect of a strong early learning program is ensuring a safe and caring environment. Nurturing relationships are essential. Positive and caring environments both at home and in school promote self-confidence and sound mental health, motivation to learn and achievement in school, the ability to control aggressive impulses, and resolve conflicts in nonviolent ways. The quality of the child’s human relationships provides the necessary steps for life long success.
Holy Spirit Catholic Schools is provincially recognized for our early learning programming. We have developed age appropriate programs for three, four and five year olds that support language and early literacy development, social skills and complex cognitive skills. We honor children for who they are and allow them to grow within their natural continuum of development. Beginning January 7, 2013, Holy Spirit Catholic Schools will be accepting registrations for our early learning and kindergarten programs. Visit your neighbourhood school and ensure a great start to your child’s learning today and for the future.
Please Note: This article was published in the Lethbridge Herald on January 9, 2013.