Early education often focuses on learning through play, which evokes a child's natural curiosity and imagination while providing physical, intellectual, language, emotional and social needs. Parents are the child's first teacher and thus should be aware of the optimal curriculum to maximize learning.
The best way for children to learn is through active, engaged, meaningful learning in an appropriate environment and on a consistent routine and daily schedule to reinforce continuity. Young children feel more secure when they can predict the sequence of events and have some control over their environment. Young children also learn best when they are with teachers who treat them as individuals and interact on a personal level. In this way, the teacher can best monitor development as catered to the child's unique personality and learning style. Indoor/outdoor settings that allow children to explore and learn is ideal, spaces where they can play and interact socially. Effective grouping practices are also important to consider when planning an early childhood curriculum. Research indicates that non-graded, mixed-age grouping is particularly appropriate for young children.
Preschool and kindergarten programs are highly effective ways of enhancing social and emotional development in children. These half-day programs are designed to help children develop skills through play-oriented experiences; however, with federal legislation like the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 offering financial incentives to schools that make good academic progress as measured on standardized testing, many kindergartens are now spending more time engaging in academic subjects.