Universal access to ECEC is vital, child psychologist says
Early childhood does not receive enough credit for the importance it has in strengthening and supporting universal play-based early learning, a prominent child psychologist has said, speaking out in favour of providing all Australian children with universal access to quality early learning.
Jon Jureidini, Professor of psychiatry at the Robinson Research Institute, University of Adelaide, said that children require consistency, stimulation, responsiveness, and rich play environments. Because this is not always available at home, affording children with access to high-quality childcare can change lives.
“As a child psychiatrist, I don’t believe there’s been sufficient recognition of the importance of strengthening and supporting universal play-based early learning and childcare,” Professor Jureidini told The Canberra Times.
In order to be effective in the lives of children, educators “don’t need to be experts in mental health,” the Professor said, but they do need support and training to be “good teachers who save children’s emotional lives”.
Australians are now more aware of the importance of the first few years of life on brain development, knowing that during this time children will “learn in leaps and bounds, developing emotional, interpersonal and cognitive skills that will help them lead healthy, happy lives,” he continued.
“Properly resourced early learning and childcare provide developmentally appropriate settings in which a child can develop personal and interpersonal competence. This is an approach to infant mental health that enhances the wellbeing of all children and families, rather than seeking to identify deficits in (and potentially stigmatise) a minority of individuals.”
An increasing investment in high-quality, well-resourced ECEC, provided by well trained and well paid educators “is our best buy for the mental health of infants and the adults they will become,” he said in closing.
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