Ask Reading Kingdom: What is the difference between Early Childhood education and Child Development?

Dr. Marion Blank (Founder of ReadingKingdom.com) answers:

Child development is the term for the period of the life span from birth to adolescence (in other words, the entire period until adulthood).  The period covers a vast range of changes across many areas in biology and psychology.  Often the period is further subdivided into categories that include the newborn (the first few weeks); infant (to about a year); toddler (from 1–2 years); preschooler (3–5 years); school-aged child (6–13 years); adolescent (13–19 years).m-blank-100-rounded

While some of the changes over these years are linked to schooling, most are not. Child development is a process far broader than schooling and it takes place whether or not a child goes to school.  The changes occur as a result of an interplay between maturation and environmental factors. For example, children universally develop language during the early years of life –and this happens independent of schooling. However, it does not happen without environmental input (i.e., the child must be in a setting where s/he hears and interacts with others talking.

Early childhood education, by contrast, is a narrower concept both in terms of years (sometimes up to eight years—but more commonly now up to six years) and content (it denotes the instruction intentionally offered to children during this period. It involves areas such as play, social interaction, physical development and early reading skills.).  In general, over the past several decades, early childhood education has been steadily expanding. Fifty years ago, for example, “schools” for children two years of age were rare, if they existed at all. That situation has changed dramatically and now parents in the western world commonly place toddlers in school settings. So schools play an increasingly important role in the lives of many children—but they still occupy a relatively confined space.  Development, however, touches every aspect of their lives.