Cognitive and biological development during the first few years of a child’s life establishes the path for future learning and success.
The more stimulating the environment, the more a child thrives, which is why early childhood development (ECD) programmes focus on creating opportunities for stimulation and learning in children under the age of 5. It's a sensitive window of time that, if not leveraged properly, can have a lasting negative impact that is difficult to reverse.
Exposure to early learning and stimulation leads to greater success in school and life. It’s shown that quality early learning experiences are associated with lower school drop-out rates, reduced levels of crime, income equalisation, greater earning potential and better mental health.
Children, who spend their younger years in less stimulating, or less emotionally and physically supportive environments, tend to experience cognitive, social and behavioural delays. However, there are simple, inexpensive and effective ways in which parents, childminders and ECD centres can provide opportunities for optimal early learning development.
The knock-on effect of poor early childhood development extends beyond just the child. The long-term potential of an entire country suffers too. While improvements are being made in South Africa to reach Grade R learners, access to quality early childhood development for those younger than 5 is still very limited. This means that children whose potential for learning is at its most sensitive are getting “lost” in the system.
Creating opportunities for early learning tends to to improve the social and economic well-being of generations to come, making it a particularly smart investment with high returns.