The National Association for the Education of Young Children External link  (NAEYC) defines “early childhood” as occurring before the age of eight, and it is during this period that a child goes through the most rapid phase of growth and development. Their brains develop faster than at any other point in their lives, so these years are critical. The foundations for their social skills, self-esteem, perception of the world, and moral outlook are established during these years, as well as the development of cognitive skills.

Early childhood education is encouraged for the healthy development and nurturing of all these important foundations, and trends show that parents are increasingly recognizing this. In fact, according to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), enrollment in prekindergarten-level education has risen from 96,000 to over 1 million External links in the last 30 years.

Early childhood education is not mandated by the United States Department of Education. Elementary and secondary education is all that is legally required for students, though early childhood education is doubtlessly an important and fundamental stage of learning.

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