Children love to learn, especially very young children between six months and six years. As everyone knows, this is the age when children are at their most curious and soak up everything about the wonderful world around them.
Early childhood education can take place in a number of environments – at home, in a crèche, pre-school, kindergarten, play-school and Montessori school. Different schools and childcare workers/teachers can concentrate on different areas and education styles, but all have to know how to plan and implement programmes that address the educational needs of young children.
Montessori is among the most well known of early-childhood education options. Italian Maria Montessori pioneered a method of education that took into account how children interacted with each other, their psychology, their learning capabilities, and how they moved through specific phases of development, which she hoped would help create well-rounded adults capable of building a better society.
Degree course options include Early Childhood Education, Early Childhood Care and Early Childhood Studies (CAO points required are 330 – 400). There are also many certificate and diploma options including childcare courses that feature education subjects, as well as Montessori courses at PLC and private colleges.
Early childhood education courses teach students about children’s physical, cognitive, social and emotional development. Typical subjects include Developmental Psychology, Language Acquisition, Assessment Techniques, and Healthcare & Nutrition as well as classes in teaching Art, Music, Science, Creativity and Drama. Supervised work placements in a childcare environment are an integral part of most early childhood education courses.
Montessori courses teach the Montessori method of education, including subjects focusing on Practical Life Exercises, Environment & Cultural Awareness, Art & Music, Movement Sensorial Education, Language and Mathematics. You will also learn about child development (physical, social and psychological) and experience an extensive period of teaching practice.
A course in early childhood studies prepares students for working with young children in a variety of situations. Graduates can find work in crèches, pre-schools, day nurseries and private homes, as well as with special needs services, community services and family centres.
Graduates may also decide to move into in counselling or other areas of education, organisational and administrative work in the state, private and voluntary sectors.
Naturally, what activities you will undertake depend on the school or centre you work for and the age of the children. However, most childcare workers combine caring for children with teaching duties. An example of this might be ensuring that children eat healthily while teaching them what foods and drinks are good for them.
One of the central ideas of early childhood education is that children learn through play, allowing them to form concepts and understand complex relationships, while keeping them interested. Typically, an early childhood worker will lead their charges through play exercises that touch on key educational areas, such as music, art, science, maths and literacy.
Early childhood education professionals also deal with situations ranging from children who miss their parents, to helping children gain confidence in everyday tasks such as pouring a drink and tying their laces, to ensuring the classroom or play area conforms to official health & safety standards.
Montessori teachers deal with the above situations in a particular way. The child is guided to explore and learn through both its own will and though the examples set by the teacher.
Personal Qualities & Work Environment
It goes without saying that someone who works in childcare education should like kids and be able to communicate well with them. Young children generally don’t care if you are tired or not in the mood to play. High levels of energy, patience and a sense of humour are useful for a career in this area, while the joy and satisfaction of helping young children learn is tremendously rewarding for many people.
Childcare education professionals can work in different environments ranging from classrooms professionally designed for young children, to live-in situations in people’s homes. The hours can be irregular and the working day can start very early in the morning.
Salaries for graduates vary depending on the area you choose. Working in a crèche or nursery traditionally doesn’t deliver a large pay packet – you are likely to start on minimum wage. A trainee social care worker will earn around €25,000 a year.
JargonSensory Development: How a child uses his or her senses and processes the information gained.
Language Acquisition: How a child (or adult) learns to use language to communicate
Kindergarten: Literally children‘s garden (translated from the German), an overall term for pre-school education and care