Early Childhood is a developmental stage from 3 years to 8 years. These early years are most crucial and critical for overall development of a child. The experiences which the child goes through during this phase have a long term effect on his/her life course. According to the educationalists children are born as blank slate or “Tabula Rasa” (concept given by Locke) they start their life from neutral. Child’s mind is so mold-able that the parent’s and immediate caretakers can mold it in any way. This is the stage when basic physical, social development happens and cognitive development starts. The child learns socialization, logical thinking and concept of friendship and is gradually moving towards excelling cognitive development. He has developed gross motor skills and excellence in fine motor skills is in progress.
According to the developmental theorist Human Life Span is divided into different developmental stages, each theorist has its own way of classification. Erick Erickson and Jean Piaget were the two most widely acceptable developmental theorist of Human Life Span. Erick Erickson identify stages according to Emotional development of the child, according to his Theory early childhood falls in two of its stages – 1) Will (autonomy Vs Shame and Doubt – 2-4 years) 2) Purpose (initiative Vs Guilt – 4-5 years). While Piaget identify Life Span according to cognitive development into 3 developmental stages – Pre operational, Concrete operational and Formal operational. He identifies Preoperational (2-7years) as the stage of early childhood.
If we deeply study any of the above mentioned or other theorists there is one thing in common, they all identify early childhood as a crucial stage in which a platform is prepared for the future overall growth and development. This stage is just like a foundation of a building if the foundation is laid correctly then the building withstand can withstand all the outrage, even the design of the building depends upon the foundation. In the same way the environment we provide to the child will have a major impact on the type of person he/she will become in the future. That’s why most of the child psychologist and parent counselors repeatedly suggest the parents to provide their child an exploratory environment where he/she can learn and discovers new things. The main reason behind the expansion of play school market is the concept that “this is the stage where the child’s grasping capacity is at peak. The child can learn as many skills/language as he is exposed too; Play- Way Techniques are used to teach these skills to the children. To explain this phenomenon we can consider our case, we often forget the work we had done in last few days and even find it difficult to remember our graduation syllabus exactly, but we can even recite our nursery rhymes, alphabet songs and number songs at this movement also – this is what we call play way technique (making learn through songs etc.), our nursery teachers have used this at a best possible time which is early childhood stage where our memorizing power was at its peak. During that time we had learned all the stuffs by simply imitating, repeating our teachers, parents and immediate environment. Also if any psychiatric issue or cognitive, developmental and physical developmental delay is identified in early childhood stage, then coping chances are more than any other developmental stage. But it can be opposite also if a child faces any trauma/abuse at this stage then the aftereffects are more serious and can have a strong negative impact on their overall growth.
The need to provide a healthy and safe environment to the children is identified by UNICEF also. In 2014 UNICEF staff and government counterparts participated in Forum on Investing in Young Children and panel discussion on neuroscience and early childhood development (ECD) (UNICEF). These were excellent capacity enhancement opportunities and advocacy platform for increasing investments in ECCE. India Country Office hosted South Asia ECD Meeting bringing together 6 countries in South Asia to discuss ECD priorities and programming. The events provided a major boost to growing momentum on ECD in South Asia region (UNICEF). Even the major government flagship programs Mid Day Meal, Right to Education, Mission Indradhanush etc. all focuses in providing a safe, healthy, nutritive and exploratory environment to the children. Through Mid Day Meal government aims to provide good quality/nutritive meal to every child and through Right to Education efforts are made that every child got the opportunity to study. Both of these schemes may cater children above 6-7 years. But through Aaganwadi’s special provisions were made to cater needs of young ones, Education through interesting means and healthy nutritive food for their physical growth that to in their immediate environment.
“Interventions in early childhood are proven to have long-term effects on future social adjustment and economic success, and may even be passed on to subsequent generations” (UNICEF), which means the interventions we do today will make the background of the future we want. If we want a developed nation in future, then first we have to provide a safe, secure, healthy and exploratory environment to our children. If India wants’ to progress as a nation then our government should start focusing more on the early childhood development programs.