Early childhood program directors manage preschools.

Early Childhood Education: Resources, Theories, and Fundamentals


Early childhood education (ECE) involves more than just teaching children basic skills and making sure they’re prepared to begin school. According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), ECE programs uniquely take a holistic approach to a child’s development, giving them the foundation that they need to be healthy in their social lives, intelligent and cognitively high-functioning and emotionally well-adjusted.

There’s also a benefit of early childhood education programs to disadvantaged communities. When students from less privileged homes receive quality education during this phase — in their peak years of development — it contributes to closing the gap between the advantaged and disadvantaged.

These are more than just theories or anecdotal observations. They’re rooted in actual research. A study from the Harvard Graduate School of Education found that effective early childhood education programming in certain populations decreased special education placements by about 8% and increased high school graduation rates by over 11%.

There’s also evidence to suggest that the benefits of the ECE curriculum goes well beyond the academic arena. An empirical study released by the Economic Opportunity Institute found that children who received education in Pre-K programs were far less likely to get involved in criminal behavior as they got older. Early childhood education teaches children basic skills, but it also provides crucial structure and a controlled environment that fosters development in multiple areas at the same time.

It’s clear that early childhood education is important — but, how can current and aspiring teachers ensure that they’re giving young students the best opportunities to engage with this curriculum for the purposes of their own physical, mental and emotional development? This page is full of resources to help make early childhood education as versatile, engaging and effective as possible.

Fundamentals of Early Childhood Education

We know how important early childhood education is, but instructors need to know how to get the most of integrating the fundamental theories about these programs into their classrooms. These are formative years for young students, and when an ECE program doesn’t include balanced enrichment, fun and engaging activity, the benefits of early childhood education may not come to fruition.

In this section, we provide a variety of resources, ranging from “diverse learning styles for early childhood education“, which explores the different focal points of teaching young children, to “balancing play time and academics“, which shows instructors how to teach in ways that encourage creativity and fun in the classroom.

Developing Early Childhood Education Curriculum

The first step to providing effective early childhood education is to develop a curriculum, which can be a challenge, especially for new and inexperienced teachers. Our blog, “developing early childhood curriculum: tips for new teachers,” provides crucial advice to teachers looking for guidelines when they start building an ECE curriculum. Tips include being aware and respectful of mandated standards for different learning areas and keeping in mind the skills and abilities of the specific students in your classroom.

In addition, teachers should be aware that they should be able to create a varied curriculum that exposes children to multiple subjects, even those that are generally associated with older students. This way, students will go into the next level with a well-rounded foundation of learning.

Math in Early Childhood Education

Math isn’t usually a subject associated with early childhood education because of its relative complexity, but this doesn’t mean that children shouldn’t be exposed to it early in life. Early childhood education curricula that include math have the ability to foster an early understanding of numbers, develop the basis of quantitative thinking and plant the seeds of logic and problem solving in a developing brain.

The learning “language” involved with math is also unique. It’s not uncommon for people, even at young ages, to gravitate more towards the analytical than the creative, and giving young students access to a wide range of subjects has the potential to help them develop their own learning style.

Literacy Development Strategies for Early Childhood Education

Remember how we pointed out that early childhood education has the potential to close privilege gaps for the disadvantaged in terms of available resources? In our blog, “Illiteracy in America“, we explore how family and background affects literacy rates.

In our research, we found that children who grow up in homes where their parents aren’t well educated are more likely to get poor grades, have behavioral problems, high truancy rates, repeat school years or have to drop out of school completely.

Early childhood education can plant the seeds of language at a young age, helping to combat these trends and allow those who are less privileged play on a level playing field with their peers.

Resources in this section provide educators with in-depth information about recognizing and helping kids who are struggling to read.

Technology in Early Childhood Education

Instinctively, educators are wary of technology’s place in the modern classroom, especially for young students with fragile developmental needs. With this in mind, interactive software has a chance to benefit early childhood development when used in the most constructive ways.

In our blog, Should technology be part of early childhood education?, we explore the fact that when used strategically, technology can present unique opportunities that foster a child’s development. For example, students aged three to five years old benefit from open ended exercises on a computer a tablet. This ability to explore freely allows younger children to develop patterns of thinking that are conducive to communication and learning ability down the road.

Resources in this section provide educators with in-depth information about recognizing and helping kids who are struggling to read.

Early Childhood Education Professional Development

The best way to excel in the area of early childhood education, and improve your skills as a teacher, is with a professional education program. A certificate could be a quick path to gain the knowledge you need or achieve a credentialed certification, but a degree in the subject can set the base for greater growth. Learn about different degree options for professional learning and how they’re useful for particular education paths.