Small minds learn fast
Neuroscientists all over the world agree with something kindergarten teachers have known for decades: most of our brain development happens in the first five years of our lives.
In fact, according to international research, around 80% of our brain has already developed before we start school, and our learning experiences in that time can make an enormous difference to our lives.
Nicole Sanders, Centre Director at Goodstart Gladstone - Beak Street, believes this is why parents should put the same time and effort into choosing childcare, as they put into choosing their child's secondary school.
"Just think about how much children learn in their first five years," she said.
"Not just to talk and walk, but to create, achieve, reason and empathise too. They learn to get along with others and to stand on their own two feet as unique individuals too.
"All these skills are fundamental platforms on which their later learning is built. The stronger these foundations are, the more successful learning will be at school and beyond."
Scientists have found that positive early learning experiences can build a greater number of more complex pathways in the brain.
These pathways provide the base for the brain's organisational development and functioning throughout life. They have a direct impact not just on how children develop learning skills, but on their social and emotional development as well.
Findings like these have created a growing interest in the quality of early childhood education, and the Australian Government has established the National Quality Framework to ensure improved early learning and safety standards in the early learning and childcare sector.
"Within this, is the Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF), which guides us in developing a quality early learning curriculum," said Ms Sanders.
The focus on early learning outcomes has in turn placed a focus on those who are caring for children in those early years too.
Early childhood teachers and educators are now required to hold formal qualifications from a university or approved training organisation.
According to Ms Sanders, this is an important step in improving standards in the sector, and one that will help parents feel more confident about choosing childcare for the their children.
"If you want to be assured that your child is not merely being 'babysat' while in care, look for a childcare provider that has adopted the National Quality Framework" she said.
"It means that the centre has a strong early learning focus, that set standards are in place, that the staff are qualified and that your child is getting the best possible start in life."