CTs and Early Childhood Development

What is early childhood development?

Early childhood development is the formation of children’s cognitive abilities, social/emotional/behavioral health, physical health and motor skills. Broader definitions include children’s spiritual and ethical development and sense of identity within nations and groups (Britto and Kagan 2010). Appropriate development occurs in a safe, nurturing environment, and allows children to survive, grow physically strong, maintain good health, be engaged mentally, secure emotionally, capable socially, and ready to learn (WFFC 2002). Successful early child development prepares children to participate and benefit from the formal education system, thereby allowing the child to reach his or her full potential. It is encouraged through the provision of appropriate nutrition and health care, stimulating activities, and healthy relationships and interaction with others.

  • Proper Nutrition,
    Appropriate Health
  • Healthy
    and Interaction
    with Others
  • Early
  • Healthy Early

(Illustration adapted in part from Naudeau et al. 2011)

Early child development occurs in children from birth through ages 5 through 8 (depending on the definition used), with the upper age range typically defined by age of formal school entrance. Synonymous with early childhood care, early childhood care and development, early childhood education, and early childhood care and education, early childhood development is conceived in three distinct stages: that of conception through age 3, ages 3-5, and from 6 through school entrance (Britto, Engle, and Super 2013).

Early childhood development is especially important in developing countries and among disadvantaged populations, where children are more likely to be exposed to illness, food scarcity, unstable communities and families, and so on.