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Crawl Today, Soar Tomorrow! To Raise a Future Leader, Choose the Right Preschool

Photo by David Hume Kennerly
Photo by David Hume Kennerly

Want to set your child up for a super future? Trying to imagine what they’ll need can be more than a little daunting. Do they need to learn five languages, including programming? Or start boning up on artificial intelligence?

Don’t start booking playdates with robots just yet. What tomorrow’s workers need are not the high-tech skills you might expect.

What the next generation will need are things like critical thinking, cooperation, communication, and creativity. In other words, what people need for future success is exactly what’s being taught today…in America’s best preschools.

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“Social emotional learning is very much a 21st century skill,” says Dr. Elanna Yalow, Vice Chair and Senior Advisor of KinderCare Learning Companies. “No matter what changes and challenges the coming decades bring, the best preschools give children the confidence and resilience they’ll need to succeed.”

Hardworking families wondering if they’re doing the right thing for their kids can take heart: One of the best choices that parents can make for their child is to choose the right preschool. And yes, there’s plenty of evidence that proves children who attend “high-quality” preschools are better prepared for kindergarten—and beyond.

Why is social emotional learning so important? Take a look!

Photo by David Hume Kennerly
Photo by David Hume Kennerly

1. Social Emotional Savvy Sets Kids Up for a Great Career

Think of a quintessential tech company and Google might spring to mind. Looking to hire the best talent, Google studied its own workforce to understand what skills made its top managers so successful.

The Silicon Valley heavyweight naturally expected mastery of STEM skills would be key—but no. Instead, qualities like empathy, creativity, communication, and critical thinking were the superpowers that their top performers shared.

Google isn’t the only organization to uncover the importance of social emotional learning. “Today’s job candidates must be able to collaborate, communicate, and solve problems—skills mainly developed through social and emotional learning,” notes the World Economic Forum.

Quality preschool programs build social emotional activities into their curriculum for every age group—even babies! They use props like puppets to build empathy, help kids name their feelings, and even build dramatic play programs that focus on cooperation. All this provides kids what they need to be good friends—and good citizens. Considering the global population is projected to reach 9.8 billion by 2050—an increase of more than 2 billion people—those are qualities the world is going to need!

Photo by David Hume Kennerly
Photo by David Hume Kennerly

2. To Make the Grade in School, Kids Need Social Emotional Smarts 

Life can be crazy hectic. Who hasn’t served their kids breakfast on the go…in the car? Don’t sweat the small stuff. By choosing a high-quality preschool program, you’re already setting your kids up for success.

The vast majority of brain development happens between the ages of zero to three—the perfect time for children to build the positive social emotional skills they’ll need.

In fact, social emotional skills are essential for all learning. Why? When children learn to manage their own thoughts and feelings, they can focus on new ideas—including reading and pre-math skills.

Early learning also gives children a boost when it’s time to head to “big kid school,” a.k.a. kindergarten. A child with a great start in social emotional learning is simply going to have an easier time transitioning to school. And once they get there, social emotional skills give them a head start. Compared to preschool classrooms, many kindergartens have a more traditional setup—and a lot more kids! The ability to cooperate with others, take turns, and empathize helps them learn better.

Plus, the benefits of preschool extend well beyond kindergarten: Kids with higher levels of school readiness at age five are “more successful in grade school, are less likely to drop out of high school, and earn more as adults, even after adjusting for differences in family background,” according to a Brookings Institution study. Another study even found that entering school “ready to learn” increases a child’s chances of reaching middle class status by age 40 by about 8 percentage points.

Photo by David Hume Kennerly
Photo by David Hume Kennerly

3. With a Top Teacher, Kids Get a Leg Up on Social Emotional Learning

Like Google, KinderCare (in partnership with Gallup) took a look at its own workforce to understand what made our best teachers so fantastic.

And, like Google’s study, the results surprised us.

KinderCare found that the very best early childhood educators are not necessarily those with, say, advanced preschool education degrees. They’re the people with big hearts, a genuine love for children, and (most humorously) an ability to thrive amidst chaos. 

“Anyone who’s been around young children knows that it takes true talent to guide their creative spirits and energy,” says KinderCare President Wei-Li Chong. “Great teachers know how to stay present, make children feel valued, and help each and every child reach their full learning potential. This sets up confidence for life.”

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Why do great teachers matter? Research shows top early childhood educators have a positive (and measurable) impact on children’s social, emotional, and academic success.

When the Brookings Institution analyzed what qualities of a preschool gave kids a leg up in kindergarten, it found that great teachers were key. Here’s why:

  • Top teachers create buzzing, joyful classrooms alive with happy children. And research shows that kids who are active, interested, and engaged are more likely to be school ready!
  • Top teachers create inclusive, warm, and positive classrooms—exactly the kind of environment that builds children’s social and emotional learning.
  • Top teachers ask questions that encourage kids to think, reason, and imagine.

“The research shows what parents already know intuitively,” says Yalow. “Great early childhood educators are gold for children. That’s exactly why we work to hire the best.”

The only thing left for hardworking families to do is to find a high-quality preschool in their area. Luckily, thanks to more research on the value of high-quality early childhood education, there are more choices than ever. And there are easy ways parents can identify a high-quality early childhood education center on their search.

The future’s starting to look brighter already.

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