What is Early Childhood Education about?

In my latest search for inspiration for this post, I came across the term Early Childhood Education and care (ECEC). Wow, that is exactly what many of my posts on this site is about, and I did not even know the term existed. LOL! So, I felt I had to dig into it.

It turns out that ECEC is an actual branch of educational theory that relates to the teaching of young kids, both formally and informally, up until the age of eight. In other words toddlers and preschoolers. The recommendations from the research within this area are being used by preschools today, which I have written more about below.

What makes early childhood education unique is that it starts with the child and not with the subject matter, which I find very appealing.

More about my own thoughts regarding early learning can be found in these posts: Explorers for life and Why kids ask why?

OK, but why?

I know the amount of debate surrounding the topic of Early Childhood Education and Care is huge. I think every parent has their own opinion, and “know” what is best for their own youngsters. The main concern people have is how much formal learning is necessary or beneficial for very young children. I have heard parents say things like “Ah, but please, just let them play and be children”.

But! Is there a contradiction between playing and learning? I don’t think so.

One thing I am convinced about is that kids will do what their parents do, not what the parents tell them to do. Kids normally love to mimic what you do, and that is one excellent way for them to learn new things. Don’t you agree?

Recommended articles

So are there any good articles that cover the topic in a quick and easy way? The answer is yes. 

For you who want to read about Early Childhood Education and Care, I recommend reading the article 5 Great (and Timeless) Articles on Early Childhood Education. The five articles they have listed are about what the big deal is with it, the history of it, why the sooner the better is important, a little about theories and influences, and how to prepare your child for kindergarten.

What do research and studies show?

Studies like Children’s early learning. A cross-sectional study of preschool as an environment for children’s learning states that some form of education, whether it is in a formal school setting or an informal setting in the home, greatly benefits children by the time they reach traditional school ages. Kids are better equipped to learn, better behaved, and overall more prepared. This seems to be true regardless of levels of wealth within the families. I think education is the best way to fight poverty and criminality in the long run.

On the website about Scandinavian research in early childhood and care it is possible to dig into several specific research fields of interest like Children’s skills development, Children’s social relationships, Academic skills of ECEC teachers, and perceptions of the profession, Activities, and routines in ECEC, and more. There you can find a lot of different interesting reports if you are interested in more.

How is Early Childhood Education in Sweden?

In Sweden, where I live, preschools follow the Curriculum for the preschool that the Swedish National Agency for Education (Skolverket) has published. The curriculum is based on the results and recommendations of the research done in Early Childhood Education.

The Swedish National Agency for Education is tasked with ensuring that all children and students have access to the same high-quality standard of education and activities in secure environments. Their mission is to create the best conditions for the kid’s development and learning and to help improve the students’ learning outcomes.

83% of the kids between ages 1-5 are registered for preschools in Sweden today, and up to 95% between ages 3-5. This has increased a lot compared to 10 years ago when it was 72%, and 15 years ago when it was 59%. Why is that? I am not sure, but I think it could be because more and more parents see the value in Early Childhood Education and Care that is offered in preschools.

What is my own experience?

Photo by Tanaphong Toochinda on Unsplash

My own kids have gone to kindergarten since they were about 1,5 years old. Both have loved it, and I as a parent, have found it very rewarding. The teachers have been excellent and very creative. I have been able to follow the activities they have done at kindergarten by a digital portal, where they have gathered pictures and described what they have done in each kid’s own folder. The teachers have also informed us parents about how the activities they do are linked to the Curriculum for the preschool.

Have you ever asked your kid what they have done in kindergarten today? I think very often the answer is “I don’t know” or “I don’t remember”. LOL That is when the material in my kid’s digital folders has been excellent to look at and let them talk about their experiences.

I think the system with kindergarten works quite well here in Sweden. It enables the possibility for both parents to work full time if they wish. The drawback with that is of course that the kids’ “working hours” can be longer than the parent’s if they both are on the same schedule, or if the parent is a single mum or dad.

I have kept the amount of “working hours” in mind for my kids. I don’t work exactly the same hours as my husband. We both work full time though. He starts to work early in the morning, so he can go and get the kids in the afternoon before I can leave work and go home. Our kids’ “working hours” have always been around six-seven hours. I think that has been just enough. That leaves time and energy for quality family time for all of us.


Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

My conclusion about Early Childhood Education is that it seems to work very well to help kids to be better equipped to learn, better behaved, and overall more prepared by the time they reach traditional school ages. This is regardless of whether it is in a formal school setting or an informal setting in the home. The best part is that it is for all kids regardless of how wealthy their family is.
So what do you think, what is your opinion about Early Childhood Education?

I know there are a lot of teachers and parents out there that know this area a lot better than I. I am not a teacher, I am just a parent.

Do you think there is a contradiction between playing and learning?

I would love to know what you think. Just leave a comment below with your thoughts and I will get right back to you!



Personally, I don’t think that there is a difference between learning and playing in young children. In fact, I am a strong believer that children learn -and learn best- through play.

A child already has a short attention span. In order for him/her to learn something, extended periods of time are usually required. This means that to capture a child’s attention for that long, the activity must be really engaging, or the child must be intrinsically motivated (such as being interested in the topic) to do something. Even external motivations may not work after a certain time, and there are some sayings that when it’s external rewards offered, the child is in even more control – because he/she decides whether or not he/she wants to do something to get the reward, while the giver can only hope to tweak the reward in order to coax the child into doing the thing.

Hi Rachel,

Thank you for your comment!

Yes, I agree that kids (and many adults too) have a short attention span. That is why I like that the idea with early childhood education: It starts with the child and not with the subject matter. I don’t think anyone can be focused for hours without a break. I also feel it is important that the adults around the kids, especially their parents, get involved and show that they are interested in what the kids are exploring.

I have another post here, where I have written my thoughts about feedback as a reward. Yes, I agree that it is important how feedback is given – if at all needed!

I really love this site. There is a need for sites like this. As a homeschooling parent and a parent of an autistic child, I am always hunting for ideas, insights etc. I will continue to follow your site. The definition of early childhood education is broad. It needs further defining and categorizing in my opinion. Thanks for exploring this.

Thank you! I’m happy that you like my site. I really enjoy to help parents to find inspiration for things they can talk about and do with their kids. 

I agree, the field of early childhood education is very broad. I will continue to write a lot more about it. I have just begun to explore it. Autism adds a dimension to it in which I don’t have much experience. I’m so impressed of the parents who deal with it every day. I’ll be very happy to hear more about it from your point of view. 


Hello Marika
I left the teaching profession because of the way children are treated within the education system.
Play is a crucial part of learning and I don’t believe the two can be separated.
I like your comment about some formal learning giving children some experience before going to school. I hadn’t thought about this before.
I’m in the UK and the problem here is the education of the child is based on statistics and league tables rather than on the needs of the child.
Instead of creating innovative, creative and interesting people we are making clones where no-one ‘shines’
Play helps children learn in the best possible way.
Thanks for an interesting article.

Hello Jackie,

Thank you for your comment! 

I recognize a lot from my own childhood in what you have written. It used to be like that in Sweden too. Overall, I think a lot has been improved in the education system here lately. 

My dream would be that teachers and parents are given the right tools to help them to reach the potential in every individual child, to get them all to blossom in their own way. I believe that could lead to a lot of new innovations, new companies, new jobs and so on in the future, which I believe, would benefit the entire society immensely in so many ways. I think there is a huge need for innovative, creative and interesting people in the future.

Thank you for reading my article!


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