November 21, 2019 | Dena AuCoin , EdD
Early childhood professionals spend their workdays at attention, maintaining a constant focus on the care and well-being of young children. This is one of the many reasons early childhood professionals are so important in our society. Let’s talk about the critical role of early childhood professionals in child development and address the obstacles that they need to overcome.
What Do Early Childhood Professionals Do?
The list of duties that early childhood professionals perform is long. To start, here is an example of a typical half-day schedule for a preschool teacher:
||Arrival and Welcome
||Circle Time 1
||Reading and Writing Exercise
||Handwashing and Snack
||Circle Time 2
||Music and Movement Exercise
||Handwashing and Bathroom
Although the above list doesn’t go in-depth, these activities are designed to build the adaptive, cognitive, language, physical, and social skills of your children.
Early childhood professionals also provide family support, build relationships with children and families, enhance child development, and provide intervention.
Parents are a child’s first teacher and therefore critical to development, yet early childhood professionals can help build strong parent-teacher relationships to encourage parental involvement in education and increase positive child outcomes. They communicate accomplishments and needs to parents, giving every child an opportunity for their best chance.
Why Are Early Childhood Professionals Important?
At a basic level, early childhood professionals are important because many parents work. Parents need the support of early childhood professionals to provide quality care and promote the intellectual and emotional development of their children. Most importantly, there is considerable evidence that early education, typically from birth to age 5, can promote long-term health and longevity. Positive early experiences provide children with a foundation for brain development and building a range of learning and other skills throughout life.
The most rapid period of brain growth happens in the first few years of life. In 1997, doctors Bruce Perry and Ronnie Pollard captured images of the brain development of 3-year-old children, and compared a typical child to a sensory-deprived, or unstimulated, child. The brain of the unstimulated child was significantly smaller than average, which illustrates how an unfavorable childhood environment can have a negative impact on brain development.
This is why early childhood professionals are critical to the entire child development process—they can help set the stage to combat developmental obstacles such as poverty, health issues, and other adversity.
What Challenges Do Early Childhood Professionals Face?
During the first five years of life, the importance of educational experiences for development and the creation of a foundation for school and later success is well documented. However, early childhood professionals still face several challenges. Did you know:
- According to a report from the National Institute for Early Education Research, preschool teachers in 25 states are required to have at least a bachelor’s degree. However, salary parity between pre-kindergarten and K–3 teachers is not mandated. Only 4 states require preschool teachers to be paid on the same salary schedule as kindergarten to third-grade teachers.
- Overall, public funding in the United States covers only a fraction of the resources needed by the early childhood education ecosystem.
- Early childhood professionals are often responsible for managing multiple funding streams based on varying state regulations, in addition to managing contradictory accountability systems.
Investing in early care and early childhood professionals benefits children, families, and society as a whole. Nobel Laureate James Heckman found that investing in early care can generate up to 13% return on investment per child per year. With the support of early childhood professionals, children can become healthy, contributing adults in their communities.
It is critical that as a society we work to develop a capable and effective early childhood workforce. When our systems help early childhood professionals, we help children.
Learn More About Early Education Programs at Purdue Global
If you’re interested in pursuing a career in early childhood education, Purdue University Global offers a Bachelor’s Degree in Early Childhood Administration.* To speak to an advisor or request more information about our programs, fill out a request form today.