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How to choose the best early learning program for your child [EXPLAINED]

“The goal of early childhood education should be to activate the child’s own natural desire to learn” - Maria Montessori 

The kind of education that children receive in the early years (0 to 6 years) helps them pave the way for learning at the later stages of life. During this period, it is important for educators and parents to awaken the child’s natural desire to learn. Children are innately curious about the world around them, it is this inborn curiosity that awakens their desire to learn more about the world around them. Usually, this group engages with the world, and learns about it through observation, imitation, play and imagination. 

Parents, family members, educators and the child’s environment plays an important role in this stage. Children start going to nursery schools between the ages of 2 and 3, and largely still learn through hands-on play and freeplay. It is in this stage that parents and educators get a glimpse into the preferred way of learning that each child possesses - some need excessive movement, some learn through  keen observation, some learn by watching and listening, some engage their imagination and freewill to understand and learn - each child is different. 

The importance of a well-structured early childhood program

An increased need, impact and importance of structured and well-balanced early childhood education programs has been seen worldwide, after the onset of the pandemic in 2019, with the education sector, among many others, being disrupted. In addition to the need of a well-balanced early learning early learning program, flexibility and at-home availability have become more important features that parents and educators have had to factor in now, more than ever. 

What encompasses a well-balanced, well-rounded education program for young learners? For this age group, it is crucial to have a program that allows certain freedom, while setting boundaries at the same time. It is important to provide enough challenges that children can look at and solve in different ways, offer a hands-on learning experience, and have fun! Fun and joy are the main building blocks that nurture a lifelong love and interest in learning. It is important that a learning schedule includes different kinds of puzzles to develop cognition, activities that focus on motor skills, projects that develop problem solving skills by using creativity and imagination, and most importantly something that nurtures little one’s innate curiosity and sense of wonder.

Choosing the best early learning program for young learners 

When it comes to choosing the most appropriate learning program for little ones, especially in the current scenario, there are a few important factors to consider.

  • Your child’s learning method:
Children are hands-on learners and learn a lot through observation and imitation. However, each child is different and learns differently. Some are calm and sit in one place while others need stimulation and a lot of movement. One thing all children need is sensory stimulation - they need to be able to feel different textures, pick up things (sometimes even smell and try to taste them!). So a learning environment and a learning program that has different learning aids (puzzles, playdough, worksheets, crayons, paints) with varying sizes and textures, will pique your little one’s innate curiosity for learning.
  • Physical Learning Aids
In a time where virtual classrooms and distance learning has become the norm, it is important that children have physical learning resources. These resources include a variety of puzzles, toys, worksheets and material that allows for a hands-on and fun learning experience. Learning has to always encompass joy and fun, and little ones need to be engaged physically and through their feelings, while learning. Only if they are fully engaged will they take away a joyful learning experience which is what helps develop a true love for learning.
  • Interactive sessions
Our little ones' interactions, in the current scenario, is very limited. They are not exposed to too many people, and unfortunately do not have too many chances for peer interaction. Thus, another important factor to consider is peer interaction and interaction with teachers. The peer-to-peer and teacher interaction and bond is special, and also helps develop social skills and emotional awareness. Thus, a program that offers a balanced peer-to-peer interaction, as well as the availability of, and interaction with an educator will help nurture and develop these skills.
  • Technology-Driven Learning

We are in a time where the need for technology-awareness and sensitivity is on the rise. There is an increased dependence on technology. At the same time, this is a sensitive space when it comes to young learners. While it is an undeniable fact that children are exposed to more screen time now, it is important to understand and regulate the kind of media consumed. Thus, a program with researched, balanced and meaningful content goes a long way in filtering the ‘right kind’ of screen time and media consumption. Meaningful learning games and activities, edutainment, and conscious healthy screen-time ratios play a pivotal role in choosing an early learning program.

Read more to learn about how much screen time is good screen time for kids

Appropriate age to start and importance/reasons to continue, even if there are disruptions 

There are a lot of factors that parents of young learners have had to take into account while choosing a good learning program for their little ones. One of the biggest questions asked is the appropriate age to enrol their little ones in a learning program. Parents, there is no ‘right age’ to start your little one’s education journey, as they start learning from day 1! However, children are ready to interact with others and learn from when they are 2. From 2-3, it is recommended that a lot of their learning involves play, puzzles, fun and freedom. At the age of 3, they are ready for a little more structured learning. 

It is important to continue their learning journey, in spite of setbacks, disruptions or time taken off. Continuation and repetition goes a long way in ensuring that little ones get the most that they can from any learning program, while having fun and exploring something new every day. 

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