Early Childhood Studies Degree Skills: Definition and Examples
The domain of early childhood studies is the development of children from birth to 8 years old. It's an academic and professional area that draws from multiple disciplines, including the social sciences, behavioral sciences and humanities. If you're a student of early childhood studies or are considering pursuing the subject as a degree or career, it's important to know what qualities are essential for success.
In this article, we define early childhood studies and the associated skills, look at some examples of such skills and explain how you can improve your skills, apply them to your work and highlight them as you search for jobs.
What are early childhood studies degree skills?
Early childhood studies degree skills refer to competencies and qualities that relate to understanding and influencing how young children learn, think and develop. Early childhood studies, also known as early childhood education, is an academic discipline that centers on the period of children's lives that takes place from birth to 8 years old. During this period, the things children see, hear and experience can deeply influence their future development. Thus, the skills learned in an early childhood degree program can be useful in terms of broadening your knowledge about human development, fostering growth in young learners and communicating with families.
Examples of early childhood studies degree skills
Working with very young children and fostering their development requires a combination of skills, knowledge and constitution. These competencies and qualities prepare degree holders for careers in areas such as teaching, research, psychology and educational leadership. Here are some examples of essential early childhood studies skills that apply to a broad range of careers:
Communicating with very young children usually differs from communicating with adults. Many concepts are unfamiliar to or inappropriate for children, so it's important to know how to filter ideas and "translate" them for easier understanding. This kind of communication also comprises factors such as pace, enunciation and projection, as children may respond better to a clearer, more patient manner of speech.
Early childhood professionals also commonly communicate with the parents of very young children, discussing topics such as a child's development, areas of concern and special considerations. Communication skills catered to parents help to ensure they comprehend complex issues relating to child psychology and development. Because issues concerning their children can be sensitive topics, it's helpful for early childhood professionals to know how to speak and write in well-considered, professional tones.
Interpersonal skills refer to qualities that allow you to interact with others effectively and professionally. Qualities such as empathy, compassion and enthusiasm can contribute to a strong set of interpersonal skills. In early childhood professions, interpersonal skills are important for building relationships with children and their families. A strong relationship can facilitate learning in the classroom, honesty in a clinical setting and trust in a social work setting.
Decision-making is the ability to use good judgment when choosing between alternatives. In numerous disciplines and career areas, the work of child care professionals requires them to make choices quickly, confidently and effectively. In a classroom setting, an early childhood educator might choose between lesson materials or decide how to address problem students. In a child care environment, a care worker may encounter a health emergency that demands immediate judgment to resolve. Thus, having strong decision-making skills not only aids in child development but also contributes to child safety.
Early childhood professionals often use their creativity to engage children. When it comes to planning activities or lessons, trying to get children to express themselves or encouraging certain types of behavior, creativity can help with devising techniques for success. A social worker or psychiatric professional might use untraditional methods, such as drawing or finger painting, to elicit honest responses from child patients, and teachers might execute a clean-up activity as a game to associate chores with rewarding experiences.
Early childhood professionals also model creativity to cultivate it in the children with whom they work. This fostering of creativity can lead to improvements in children's critical thinking, literacy, fine-motor skills and emotional regulation. Moreover, seeing an adult openly using creativity, children may feel more open to pursuing their own creative interests.
Organizational skills are the ability to order and prioritize your responsibilities. During early childhood, it's important for children to have a degree of routine and structure, which can help them to develop a sense of security and the ability to determine their expectations for a given day. To that end, early childhood professionals often focus on planning and organizational activities before interacting with children, ensuring that their encounters follow a logical pattern to which children are familiar and can easily adapt. Additionally, seeing order within an adult's life may have a modeling effect, inspiring children to organize their own lives.
Collaboration is the ability to work with others toward a common goal. This is an essential skill in early childhood occupations because such jobs often require integrated efforts to realize objectives for child development. For example, preschool teachers often work with parents to extend the learning environment into a child's home, allowing for ongoing development regardless of the physical environment. Social workers and clinical professionals, too, work with both parents and other early childhood professionals to create customized plans that are suitable for a specific child and the child's needs.
How to improve early childhood studies degree skills
Follow these steps to improve your early childhood studies skills:
1. Identify your strengths and areas of improvement
Some people have dispositions and personal qualities that make them more inclined toward certain skills. For others, it's necessary to engage in mindful practice to develop these same skills. To improve your early childhood studies skills, perform an honest analysis of your abilities and personal qualities. You may find that you already possess some of the essential early childhood studies skills but are deficient in others. Performing this analysis can help you with focusing your improvement efforts.
With some early childhood skills, you can effect improvement by training your mind. One way to do this is by brainstorming situations and potential reactions. On a piece of paper, list scenarios or challenges that an early childhood professional is likely to encounter on the job, such as classmate conflicts in the classroom and fear or shyness in a clinical environment. Then write down as many solutions to these issues as you can imagine, with the aim of expanding the range of possibilities beyond just traditional solutions. An exercise such as this can help to strengthen your creativity and decision-making.
3. Gain experience in early childhood environments
Working in early childhood environments can help you to put into practice the qualities essential for success as a professional. To begin, consider finding volunteer opportunities in settings such as children's hospitals, day cares, youth sports leagues or social programs that aid underprivileged children. Through regular interaction with very young children and the requirements of volunteer work, you can improve skills such as communication, interpersonal skills and organization.
Volunteer opportunities can also help you with your interactions with other early childhood professionals. This, too, can help boost your communication and interpersonal skills, and it can also lead to improvements in your collaboration skills.
Early childhood studies degree skills in the workplace
Once you acquire a job or volunteer opportunity in an early childhood setting, you can follow these tips to put your skills to use:
Experiment: Children are individuals with unique personalities and needs, so it may be necessary to experiment with different approaches to determine the best way to interact with them. The knowledge you gain through experimentation can be useful for strengthening skills such as communication, decision-making and creativity.
Expect challenges: Working in an early childhood setting is likely to present unique challenges, as very young children tend to lack full control over their impulses and the ability to reason. To avoid discouragement, expect these challenges and try to devise methods for handling them when they arise.
Reach out to colleagues: If you're just starting out in an early childhood career, consider directly reaching out to your colleagues for advice. Experienced professionals may have empirically founded advice to offer, and other beginners can provide insight that you have not have considered.
How to highlight early childhood studies degree skills during your job search
Here are some ways you can highlight these skills throughout the job search process:
Early childhood studies degree skills on your resume
There are multiple sections on your resume where you can list and describe your early childhood studies skills. The first section is the resume summary, an area toward the beginning of the document in which you introduce yourself and briefly describe your qualifications. Here, mention two or three of your top skills. You can repeat these skills, and others, in the employment history section as you describe your primary duties and in a dedicated skills section toward the end of the resume.
Early childhood studies degree skills in your cover letter
In a cover letter, you can tell a narrative about your development as an early childhood studies student or an early childhood professional. Use this format to show how you've gained and applied your early childhood studies skills. You could, for example, provide anecdotes about working with very young children and using the skills gained through your studies.
Early childhood studies degree skills in an interview
In preparation for your interview, develop and rehearse answers to the kinds of questions you expect the interviewer to ask, and try to frame as many responses as demonstrations of your early childhood studies skills. For instance, if the interviewer asks about challenges you've faced in the field, try to mention how your skills allowed you to overcome a specific challenge. Such a response not only points to a skill but also shows that you're capable of handling pressure.