Many parents find it easy to see the benefits of early childhood education. But the extra illnesses that come along with early preschool and child care can feel overwhelming. Is it a good idea to immerse your child in these environments if they’ll lead to increased illnesses from an early age?
Surprisingly, the research says “yes.” And not only because these exposures boost immune system function for years to come. Early childhood education also comes with a multitude of other health benefits for preschool-aged children. Read on to discover 5 intriguing ways that early childhood education can improve your child’s wellness and health.
It’s true that children are exposed to more germs when they are enrolled in daycare versus if they were to stay home with a parent. But studies show that early exposure to these illnesses has positive long term effects. Children who attend child care as toddlers and preschoolers have been shown to experience fewer illnesses between the ages of 5 and 8, giving them an easier start to their primary education. Early childhood education may even reduce cold and flu occurrence all the way through age 13.
Furthermore, early exposure to these common illnesses can increase the antibodies that protect against the development of asthma and allergies.
Early childhood education typically comes with medical requirements such as vaccination records, well child visits, and preschool screenings. This necessity helps to ensure parents stay on track with preventative care ranging from life-saving vaccines all the way through early vision and hearing tests.
Preschool screenings, typically required at age 3, can catch cognitive challenges that would otherwise be a barrier to future education and/or social interactions.
When children are up to date on their well child visits, doctors are more likely to catch concerns early on. If a child needs glasses, for example, their doctor will likely have the chance to refer them to an optometrist before their vision becomes a hindrance to their education.
Early childhood education can also increase access to early intervention outside of doctor visits. Teachers are trained to watch for developmental and health concerns in the children they care for. They may notice that hearing could be a concern when a toddler’s first words are more muffled than average, for example. Or they may notice small signs of a speech delay that parents simply aren’t trained to spot.
Sometimes this can be as simple as access to well-planned early childhood curriculum. Teachers often include topics like dental care in their planning, which may include practice brushing teeth or even a visit from a real dentist. This can serve as a form of early intervention for children with concerns or simply reinforce healthy habits from an early age, preventing larger challenges as time goes on.
Most forms of early childhood education include access to healthy meals, whether they are home-cooked, organic, or filled with a balance of fresh fruits and vegetables, proteins, healthy fats, and carbohydrates. This can impact children’s willingness to eat healthy foods, as well as prevent health concerns such as metabolic disease and obesity.
Active schedules, including introduction to exercise through play and plenty of outdoor time, can further strengthen these results.
When children enter early childhood education, they are given access to an environment that is meant to support their development. Children who come from disadvantaged backgrounds, such as poverty or trauma, may not have the same experience at home. At school or child care, they will be given full meals, free time to learn and play, and healthy adults to notice and support their needs.
These opportunities provide an outlet for healthy development and decrease the risks that adults carry away from challenging childhood experiences, such as heart disease and cancer.
The positive experiences can spread into the home as well,being that adequate childcare has been proven to better the mental health of working parents.
All in all, early childhood education can improve the health of children in more ways than one. And even though it may feel challenging at times, the extra coughs and runny noses really are for your child’s benefit.
If you need help finding a quality early child care program near your home, consider starting with Wonderschool. We strive to help all families find accessible programs, while also aiding in the creation of in-home child care centers across the country. Start with our free search tool to find care close to you today.
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David Calabrese, the director of Little Earthlings Forest School in San Francisco, is a testament to how childhood experiences can have lasting impacts.