We know that research evidence shows that the child’s first years of life are the most important years for his or her brain development and present and future learning. Babies start learning in the womb and their learning explodes in those early years as they learn from everything they experience. Their little brains are stimulated from birth as the people who care for them LOVE, PLAY and TALK to them. So you, in your family and home, are your child’s first and most important teachers!

Then when your little is ready, at about 3 or 4, he or she will benefit from a good quality group early learning programme. Most communities have early childhood development [ECD] centres (crèche/play school/pre-school) or playgroups that your little one can join. If it is a centre that cares for more than 6 children, it must be registered as a Partial Care Centre with the Department of Social Development [DSD], as this is a legal requirement. The certificate should be displayed. Any ECD programme should also be registered with the certificate visibly displayed. South Africa has no free system of ECD until the child enters Grade R in a primary school. Some registered ECD centres do get a per child subsidy from DSD for children whose parents’ joint income is lower than a certain amount. However, all parents are usually expected to pay monthly fees.

Research also shows that it’s very important that early learning programmes are of good quality if they are to benefit the children. So what do we mean by good quality ECD? First of all, it’s very important that this is a loving, caring environment. Young children only learn when they feel safe and loved. Are the teachers and other adults gentle, kind and loving towards the children? Do they get down to the child’s level and really listen and respond to them? Are they patient in the way they expect the children to do things?

Does the ECD programme have lots of varied toys and learning materials so that every child is happy, busy and enjoying learning through play? After all, play is how young children learn! Will your child have opportunities to draw, paint, cut and paste and create lots of different things? Will your child be able to play at being mum or dad in a make believe home with dolls, tea sets, cooking sets and other household items? Are there plenty of suitable books for him to look at? Can she build things out of boxes, blocks or construction toys? Are there jigsaw puzzles for him to do? Is there enough safe outdoor space for her to run, jump, climb, swing and play ball games? Does the teacher tell the children a story every day?

And is the environment safe, clean and hygienic with clean drinking water always available, safe toilets and a place to wash hands with soap after using the toilet and before eating. If the ECD centre provides food, is it fresh, healthy, nutritious food that will nourish your little one’s developing body and brain.

Choose your little one’s ECD programme with great care. Visit and observe before enrolling your child to ensure you are happy with the quality. Build a relationship with your little one’s teacher and keep in close and regular contact over your precious child’s development and progress.

Learn more about what you can do to change your child’s future by listening weekly to LOVE, PLAY TALK, the radio programme on Nkomazi FM aired EVERY Thursday from 11 to 11.30am and brought to you by Ilifa Labantwana and RCL FOODS. Each week Nkomazi FM hosts a guest speaker to deal with a different topic to support you, the parent of a young child, give your child the best start in life. The LOVE, PLAY, TALK radio programme is part of the RCL FOODS sponsored LEAVE NO YOUNG CHILD BEHIND early childhood development initiative in Nkomazi Wards 16 and 19 that aims to ensure every young child in these wards has access to improved quality of essential services so that they get the very best start in life. And you, the parent, have a critically important role to play!

Get more information from the Nkomazi FM website or the Ilifa Labantwana website Do listen every week and give your little one the best start in life!


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