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Why The Urgency? Why Now?


Problems negatively affecting early childhood learning and development are:


1. The deleterious effects of joblessness and poverty;


2. Preschools using developmentally inappropriate practices and materials to prepare children academically and behaviorally for kindergarten. This occurs because the preschools are overly focused on preparing the children for Kindergarten Entry Assessments (KEA) tests;


3. Many parents with a misguided faith that technology will make their children smarter, turn to electronic products in a wide array of formats including electronic educational toys, apps, videos, games, and TV programs which make strong educational claims but many of which work against what is now known to be good practices in early childhood development and learning.

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Rethinking Early Childhood Education

Stephen H. Stearn, Ph.D. and Susan Sirigatti


A large number of preschool programs today focus on getting children “kindergarten ready.” What this means is that contrary to the important research inn early childhood education and development, many preschools serving children 3 to 5 years old have introduced more rigid curricula and routines, more teacher dominated activities, and even less play time. This can often work against children’s innate motivation to learn and against their creativity and opportunity to explore and discover. When this happens, it impacts negatively on children’s independence, thinking abilities, joy in learning, outlets for stress, and healthy development.


This report suggests that children lose more than they gain by this, especially when their families are struggling with job losses and poverty. While there is reason to be concerned about what is happening in the preschools for 3 to 5 year old children, particular attention should be focused on children’s first years from 0 to 3. We now know that a positive and caring early learning environment during these first years is vital to children’s health and cognitive and emotional development. Therefore, ignoring the findings of the early learning research can lead to more serious long-term consequences.


This paper begins by reviewing the research done by psychologists and neuroscientists on the human brain and on early childhood learning and development over the past thirty years. It then goes on to discuss the important implications of the research for parenting, for early childhood learning, and for children’s healthy development as well as actions and practices that support children and their parents.


Requests for the full report should be emailed to :

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