Early learning can improve children’s health and well-being and have long-lasting benefits. Studying which factors affect early learning and education will help researchers:
- Design better ways to help at-risk children before they start school
- Improve parent, caregiver, child care provider, and preschool teacher training
- Use research findings to design better preschool and child care programs
- Study innovative early intervention settings, such as pediatrician’s offices and home visitor programs, and ways to make these programs convenient for parents and caretakers.
For example, NICHD research has helped characterize a positive learning environment as one with a warm caregiver and in which the child is supported and challenged cognitively. Findings of NICHD research also link early childhood education programs to improved adult health and demonstrate that early learning programs are cost-effective.
Recent examples include findings indicating that:
- Research shows that Head Start has positive effects on children’s math, literacy, and vocabulary skills across the board. The program had an even greater impact—boosting early math skills most—among children whose parents spent little time reading to them or counting with them at home. Children whose homes provided a medium amount of such activities had the biggest gains in early literacy skills.
- Children who have trouble developing language skills may also have trouble controlling their impulses and behaviors.
- Bilingual speakers develop brain networks that help them filter out unnecessary information better than those who speak only one language. These brain networks might protect against Alzheimer’s disease and other age-related brain problems.
- Experience and genetic factors seem to influence whether a child will have “math anxiety”—very strong worries about math abilities that can be disabling.
Read more about early education research supported by the NICHD.