Early Learning and School Readiness in Child Care

Child Care September 16, 2015 Print Friendly and PDF

Kindergarten classroom

Young children in child care are always growing, developing, thinking and learning. We now know that the first few years of life are extremely important for children’s brain development. Without early opportunities to explore, learn and discover, children may be less ready and able to learn later on. Child care providers play an important role in supporting and nurturing young children's learning.

The idea of getting children school-ready or ready to learn is still important, but high-quality child care programs recognize that even from birth young children are already learning – and at rapid pace. Early learning doesn’t wait for elementary school. The experiences of each child stimulates the brain to develop thousands of connections in the first few years of life. It's important to make those early learning experiences as enriching as possible in order to support the developing brain.

High-quality child care programs provide a well-planned curriculum with a variety of hands-on activities throughout the day. Children have opportunities to learn individually, from each other and in small groups. The early childhood environment is rich with toys, books and objects that allow children to learn through exploration and discovery.

Early learning activities in high-quality child care programs are appropriate for children’s ages, development, culture and interests, and help them learn or practice important skills. Many different kinds of activities help children learn and grow, including art, dramatic play, music, outdoor play, math, science and literature. Check out the links below to learn more about early learning, school readiness and the different types of activities that help support young children's development. If you are interested in finding specific activities to use in your child care program, visit our database of Hands-on Activities for Child Care.

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USDA / NIFA

This work is supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, New Technologies for Ag Extension project.