There are three main theories why investments for children during their early years are especially critical.1 First, programs or interventions during early childhood are likely to create many long-term benefits during the child’s whole life and therefore will not only impact an individual but also his/her family, and the community. Another reason that early interventions benefit children is that cognitive function and brain development is greatest for young children due to the brain’s rapid growth and malleability.2 Brain development and cognitive abilities gained during this time can form lasting effects on behavior through one’s life (Knudsen et al. 2006). Developing such a strong cognitive foundation during early childhood is also linked to reducing the achievement gap during adolescence.3 A third reason to invest in early childhood education is because it can serve as a foundation from which we build our future learning and education.4 For example, skills learned in elementary school derive from the skills learned during pre-school. This model is known as “skill begets skill,” and investments made in early childhood could complement or enhance the investments made in the future.5 Here is a great video that describes the “skill begets skill” model.
Investments during early childhood not only support the individual child, but also their parents and family. Research shows that high-quality and affordable childcare and education help parents to increase their employment and earnings; this is especially significant for mothers.6 Economists also claim that investments in early childhood learning interventions may also reduce involvement with the criminal justice system and may decrease costs in health care and remedial education.7
Early childhood is one of the most important windows of opportunity that we have to invest in individuals and society at large. Few investments, especially social service programs, consistently generate a return that is close to 7-10%.8 Other research shows more specific numbers such as $8.60 as a return for each $1 invested.9 This strong return on investment is particularly true for disadvantaged children and families who are already vulnerable to economic hardships.
Economic and child development research is clear in its findings that the more society supports and invests in early childhood education programs, the more the inidivudal, family, and community at large will benefit in both the short and long term. Such research strengthens our reasoning for why we choose to support early education programs for children and their families. You can too – please consider making a donation or ‘investing’ — the returns are endless!
1 THE ECONOMICS OF EARLY CHILDHOOD INVESTMENTS. Rep. The White House, 10 Dec. 2014. Web.
2 See #1
3 Heckman, James. 4 Big Benefits of Investing in Early Childhood Development. Rep. Web.
4 -7 See #1
8 See #3
9 FACT SHEET: Invest in US: The White House Summit on Early Childhood Education. Rep. White House, 10 Dec. 2014.