Do Early Childhood Experiences Really Count?
Why question the value of early childhood experiences?
A new book, The Myth of the Early Years
by Dr. John T. Bruer has raised questions about the importance of
providing children with high-quality early childhood development programs. From
the author's perspective, recent publicity about early brain
development research has led parents, educators, and policy makers
to place too much emphasis on children's early learning
experiences. He argues that neuroscience research actually provides
evidence that learning and cognitive development occurs throughout
Dr. Bruer states that providing enriching
environments to stimulate early brain development may be less
important than identifying and treating children's vision
problems, ear infections, or developmental delays.
What do high-quality programs do to support
children's healthy development and learning?
Early childhood professionals with training in child
development are aware of the need to attend to all aspects of
children's development. Good programs offer activities and
services to promote each child's physical, social, and emotional
development, as well as children's cognitive development. They
also provide the support that families need to ensure the well-being
of their children.
What does research tell us?
ZERO TO THREE, a leading organization that focuses
on early child development responded to Bruer's book stating,
"We know from rigorous psychological and sociological research,
and from compelling clinical experience, that early childhood is a
time when infants and toddlers acquire many skills needed to become
productive, happy adults."
Researchers have found children who attend
high-quality early childhood programs do gain skills normally
associated with greater brain development, such as problem solving
and language, math, and literacy skills. They also gain other kinds
of competencies such as self-control, a higher motivation for
learning and social skills. Families benefit too as they access
needed services, develop parenting skills, and participate in an
atmosphere that promotes meaningful family involvement.
What is important for young children's early
Good early childhood experiences do count
tremendously, but providing children with an early childhood
education means much more than making them smarter, earlier. Young
children need meaningful learning opportunities to develop skills,
competencies, a sense of self, and a foundation for learning
As stated by ZERO TO THREE in their press release,
"Efforts to help all children achieve the basic skills of
trust, motivation, and self-control needed for later intellectual
and emotional development should not be aimed at creating
super-babies, or giving anxious parents one more thing to worry
about, or over-ambitious parents one more reason to push their
"Our aim should be to ensure that all children
reach school age with a solid foundation for learning and relating
to others, and that all parents know what they can do to help their
children develop. In the last decade, the United States has made
important progress in recognizing the needs of young children.
Businesses have made efforts to provide services to families.
Parents are increasingly interested in how best to encourage and
prepare their children. Taking to heart many of the negative
messages of The Myth of the First Three Years can only
set back these efforts. Our nation's youngest citizens deserve
Copyright National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC)