The benefits of preschool for young children

Children at a daycare center at Domoluk, Alabel, Sarangani Province in the Philippines. ©UNICEF Philippines/2011/Kat Palasi

The brain develops at its most rapid pace in the first few years of life. Young children’s brains develop rapidly, with neurons forming at 700 to 1,000 new connections per second. These connections help develop a child’s physical and mental health.

Early stimulation and interaction with parents and caregivers jumpstart the journey of brain development — and lifetime learning.

In practice, stimulation is about parents and other caregivers being responsive to the emotional and physical needs of their children from birth onward, playing and talking with them, and exposing them to words, numbers, and simple concepts while engaging in daily routines.

The quality of child development at the time of school entry predicts performance in school. The High/Scope Perry Preschool Study in the U.S. found that disadvantaged children who participated in preschool education were more likely to complete school, find higher-paying jobs and own their homes, and are less likely to be involved in crime by the time they were 40, than children who did not get the extra support.

Children at a day care centere in Barangay Taytay, Guiuan, Eastern Samar. ©UNICEF Philippines

The ongoing ECCD Longitudinal Study in the Philippines, which tracks a cohort of Kindergarten pupils up to Grade 2, revealed that Kindergarten pupils who had preschool experience have higher socioemotional skills than those who did not have such experience.

Socioemotional skills are a child’s ability to understand the feelings of others, control his or her own feelings and behaviors, get along well with other children, and build relationships with adults Moreover, those who have higher socioemotional skills have higher early literacy and numeracy skills.

In the Philippines, while preschool for 3 to 4 years old is not mandatory, this group of children should be attending preschool so as not to miss critical periods of development in the early years. This is followed by mandatory kindergarten at 5 years old before they enter Grade 1 the following school year. Preschool can come in various forms such as day care centres, supervised neighborhood play programs, and home-based early education.

Teacher Muntiya Amor’s pupils learn about shapes and colors at Madrasah Nor-Faidah Al-Islamiah, a Tahderiyyah in Mable, Malabang, Lanao del Sur. The Tahderiyyah curriculum is based on the principles of early childhood and development, which enhances learning competencies of young children. ©UNICEF Philippines/2015/Jeoffrey Maitem

Here are five reasons why children must attend preschool:

1. Stimulates brain development — Learning and play activities in preschool stimulates young children’s brains and contributes to their intellectual, social, and emotional development.

2. Improves social skills — Preschool provides a venue for young children to learn how to interact and work with other children, as well as adults. Learning group dynamics at an early age helps improve children’s social skills.

3. Sets the foundation for lifelong learning — Learning and play activities in preschool encourages children’s natural curiosity to explore, develops their creativity and provides a positive learning experience for them. As a result, children are more eager to learn.

4. Prepares children for kindergarten and elementary school — Because children who attend preschool are more eager to learn and are able to handle social interactions and group dynamics, they are less likely to drop out of elementary school.

5. Helps break the cycle of poverty for disadvantaged children — Children who attend preschool are more likely to continue and finish elementary school, learn better, and can earn more as adults. Taking advantage of a crucial phase of the development of the child’s brain can improve the lives of the most disadvantaged and vulnerable children.

Sources: Building Better Brains: New Frontiers in Early Childhood Development, Facts for Life