Young children, before the age of about 4 years, tend to be egocentric. This means that they think the world revolves around them, and do not understand how their actions impact other people. Social studies in early childhood education focuses on social interactions with other people, as well as introduction to the differences between cultures around the world. Common methods for teaching such topics include reading books, taking field trips, classroom reenactments, and special visitors.
Early childhood social studies education focuses on social interactions. Children at this age learn basic manners, such as taking turns and saying "please," "thank you," and "you're welcome." They learn words to express their feelings, and how to talk out problems instead of resorting to physical means of expression. They learn the difference between appropriate and inappropriate behavior. Friendships also become important at this stage, so they practice being a "good friend".
Appreciation of Different Cultures
Early childhood social studies also focus on teaching children how to appreciate different cultures. Special visitors come in to make presentations about their cultural heritage. Children get to hear different kinds of music, learn dances, taste ethnic foods, and learn cultural traditions. Sometimes they may take field trips to local cultural centers.
Part of cultural education in early childhood also includes learning about different holidays celebrated throughout the year. Holiday education may be related to a culture being studied, or coincide with the actual holiday's observance on the calendar. Children can learn about traditions associated with each holiday, and classrooms may hold their own celebrations.
Neighborhood and Community Helpers
Early childhood social studies also focuses on the surrounding community. Children learn about the various community helpers, often with field trips or special visitors. Favorites include firefighters, police, mail carriers, dentists, doctors, librarians, and teachers. They are allowed to reenact the jobs within the classroom setting. Sometimes they may also map their immediate neighborhoods as an introduction to the community.
In addition to mapping the neighborhood, some early childhood classrooms begin learning how to map the world around them. They may start learning the names and locations of the continents. Some may start learning the names of the countries within each continent, and start coloring in or creating maps of the continents. Within the countries, some may also start learning locations of cities and famous landmarks.
Children also have an introduction to history through their studies of different cultures and holidays. They will learn about the history of America as they study Christopher Columbus and the Native Americans. Around President's Day and Inauguration Day they may learn about famous U.S. Presidents, such as George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Barack Obama.
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