Lucie explains what you learn in an Early Childhood Studies degree and why it isn't "just playing games".
If you work in Early Education or have looked into doing so, you may be aware of some of the misconceptions related to working within this field.
There seems to be an overarching negative view about working in the early childhood industry. Some people take the view that early years professionals simply play all day and babysit children.
We are not seen to have professional status in comparison with careers such as lawyers, doctors and even teachers. There doesn’t seem to be as much respect for those working with young children as there is once those children go to school.
For those on the outside, it can look as though practitioners are simply playing games and running around looking after babies and toddlers. However, once you begin learning about early childhood, you will very quickly see that this misconception could not be further from the reality.
What play teaches a child
When a practitioner is playing with a child, that child is learning. To the untrained eye, a game of tag is just children running riot.
But when you look deeper you can see just how much that child is learning from this simple game: spatial awareness, teamwork, taking turns, gross motor skills development, listening to instructions, following rules, experimenting with different ways of moving, finding out about their bodies and what they are capable of achieving. And this is just on the surface.
Practitioners could then potentially stretch this game and incorporate some curriculum based learning: the big tree is home, you can only stand on the numbers two, four and six, you can’t be tagged if you are touching something yellow… there are so many opportunities to turn such a simple game into a chance for learning.
And this is what practitioners are trained to do. These are the skills that children need to learn to be successful as an adult. How can you progress as an adult if you haven’t acquired the skills to work as a team? How will you learn how to be a lawyer if you cannot listen to and follow instructions? These are the skills we learn as a young child.
What do you learn in Early Childhood Studies?
When looking at early childhood courses, some people may have the misconception that the course must be easy because all we do is play and change nappies. Whilst we do learn about play and how to create fun and engaging activities for the children in our care, this is just the tip of the iceberg.
Early childhood courses are bursting with information that maybe you would not expect a practitioner to have to know. Things like child development. Some may assume that this side of childhood would be down to health visitors and nurses, but no, we learn about this too.
And then historically, what was childcare like years and years ago? Why do we need to know this? Well, how can we make sure we are providing the best care and education without knowing what has been tried and tested in previous decades?
Theoretically, we look at how children develop physically, emotionally and cognitively. How things like environment affect how a child behaves and how healthy eating and outdoor play can aid in the development of a child both physically and cognitively.
But that’s not all. We learn about children’s rights and how they should be treated. How to promote equality and diversity within the setting and, very importantly, how to safeguard them and what signs to look for.
Furthermore, you can choose a practitioner module where you will be able to take a placement and find out what it is like to work within a setting. The list goes on and I am only in my second year, I cannot wait to see what wonderful things I will learn in my final year.
So, as you can see, working within early childhood is not just playing games and it most certainly is not an easy job, but I’ll tell you one thing, when you see their little faces when you turn up for work, it’s the best job in the world!
By Lucie Hamilton
BA (Hons) Early Childhood Studies
Lucie studies at ARU in Chelmsford. If you're interested in studying Early Childhood Studies or one of our other Education degrees, book your place at an Open Day to find out more.