Why Is It Important for Early Childhood Professionals to Understand Child Development?

Specialized education in child development is key to positively impacting children, the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) says in a statement on professional preparation standards. Without such knowledge and information, early childhood professionals will struggle to reach children in a positive light. That is why understanding child development can help the professional practitioner in a variety of ways -- from creating and implementing effective lesson plans to assessing learning delays.

Professional Preparation

Getting a top-notch education isn't just important for the young child. It is also key to the early childhood professional's success. Although not every early childhood teacher will complete a college-level degree, NAEYC suggests that those working with young children in educational settings participate in preparation programs. Such programs include course work that promotes child development and learning by teaching the professional how to appropriately observe children in early childhood environments, create effective curriculum and assess student development.

Curriculum and Lesson Planning

One of the key components of the early childhood professional's position is creating effective, and developmentally appropriate, lessons. The professional must have a thorough understanding of child development in order to effectively create lesson plans that will help the young child learn new concepts. The prepared professional understands the developmental domains -- cognitive, emotional, social and motor -- and how to maximize the young child's growth through activities that promote learning in all of these areas.

Assessing Problems

Although conducting assessments isn't always the primary job of the early childhood educator, a thorough understanding of child development can help the professional identify potential problem areas. According to NAEYC, early childhood programs should conduct assessments of children in terms of developmental and educational goals. Without knowledge of child development theory and the expectations for a child's growth and learning, it is almost impossible to make relevant and comprehensive assessments.

Setting Objectives and Expectations

Understanding child development can help the early childhood educator set realistic objectives for the child's learning and create reasonable expectations for growth and behavior. For example, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) notes that a 2-year-old has little control over emotional impulses. An educator who understands that it is normal for a toddler to have the occasional outburst due to immature emotional development will have the ability to help the child work through this stage effectively with age-appropriate discipline strategies 2.