Children are natural learners and their education begins at birth, with parents and family being the first and most influential teachers.
The early years of life is the period of greatest brain development and building a strong, healthy brain in the early years leads to positive outcomes for children right through to adulthood.
Early learning refers to programs that provide education for children in the early years, delivered by early childhood educators. Quality early learning settings create safe, fun and interesting opportunities for children to learn, try new things and make friends through play.
For more information regarding early learning in Australia, please visit the Starting Blocks website.
Why participate in early learning?
Children who participate in early learning programs develop a love for learning, and families benefit too.
Research shows children who are involved in early learning have improved educational and life outcomes. A recent independent report shows that children who participate in quality early childhood education have improved school results, are less likely to need additional support in school and are more likely to complete Year 12.
Children who have participated in high-quality child care perform better academically than their peers, and children who are socially disadvantaged show the most benefit. Early childhood education and care therefore has great potential to close academic performance and attainment gaps between children from different socioeconomic backgrounds. (Elliott 2006; Moore et al. 2012; Moore 2006).
Play-based programs delivered by qualified early childhood educators improve children’s learning and developmental outcomes and are particularly important for children from disadvantaged backgrounds.
Attendance in early learning programs is also linked to better health and employment prospects and the benefits are even greater for vulnerable and disadvantaged children.
There are also economic benefits of early learning. A report has shown quality preschool delivers a two-for-one return on investment for Australia: that is, for every dollar governments invest in preschool, two dollars will be returned to the economy.