Parents, are you doing your best for your children? Do you read to them? Do you show understanding and compassion? Do you provide a stimulating environment that facilitates bonding as well as cognitive and physical development? As a parent, you should know there is an early childhood provider community available to help you and your child succeed.
Early learning is the critical period from birth to about five years of age when the brain develops most rapidly and children are building a foundation for learning that will last for life. It is during these first five years of life when a child has the ability to grow to maximize development. Language, literacy, cognitive skills, and social emotional developments have foundations in the experiences of young children. Scientists, economists, and educators all agree children benefit greatly from quality early childhood education.
Every day, families strive to provide early education in many settings from the home to licensed and accredited child care centers, license-exempt schools, faith-based facilities, and licensed or registered family child care homes. In all settings, quality is key in the delivery of such experiences to our youngest and most vulnerable population – our children.
A child’s vulnerability comes from the fact that they are growing mentally, emotionally, psychologically, and physically at enormous rates. As adults, it is our task to enhance their access to quality environments which foster their growth and development in positive ways. Licensed facilities have undergone inspections by the Florida Department of Child Care Regulations for compliance with state laws including healthy and safe environments, hiring and training of staff, maintaining ratios of adults to children in classrooms, and preparing for emergencies.
“What’s in early childhood education for me?” you ask. The answer: we each benefit when all children have access to quality early childhood experiences. Economist James Heckman is an advocate for investing in early education due to the financial return on investment for society. Studies indicate a $7 return on investment for every $1 spent on early education. Why? Quality experiences for youngsters mean children are likely to grow into productive citizens, costing society less money for recidivism, remediation, prosecution, incarceration, and welfare costs. Productive adults in turn will generate an increase in tax revenue for society.
Positive early childhood experiences help facilitate a child’s success upon kindergarten entry. Successful children have developed routines outside of the home, experience less separation anxiety, have confidence to meet new friends, speak up for themselves … the list could go on and on. Although cost is always a consideration, how much you pay for early education and care is less critical than knowing who is watching those who care for your child.
Florida Dept. of Education, Office of Early Learning
Florida Dept. of Child Care Regulation
Early Learning Coalition of Okaloosa and Walton Counties