Early childhood refers to the stage of development ranging from birth to about eight years of age. This stage is marked by substantial physical growth and brain development, as language and motor centers engage the young child in activities requiring speaking and coordination skills. Designed for children of this age, early childhood development services place emphasis on helping them to overcome emotional distress, get prepared for school, and stay healthy. Programs of this kind also promote literacy through regional library branches.
Some therapists and psychologists provide early childhood development services using play therapy. As play is the medium through which children communicate and express themselves, play therapy is a kind of psychotherapy designed to help young children to work through difficult issues such as divorce, abuse, and the death of an immediate member of the family. In a typical session, children play with their choice of available toys or media such as clay or water, and are either joined by parents or observed by a practitioner. The therapist also interacts with the child, taking special note of emerging patterns of play.
Intervention programs offer certain families with young children opportunities that might not otherwise be available to them. Typically referred to as head-start, readiness programs, or regional preschool, early childhood development services administer beneficial assessments which alert parents and teachers of possible deficits so that children can get the educational assistance that they need early. Children primarily three to five years of age are taught preschool subjects in a classroom setting for a few hours each day in order to help them to make a smooth transition to traditional schooling.
Local libraries are learning enrichment centers for toddlers and preschool age children. Fun activities are offered to stimulate and encourage literacy at an early age through story times, craft-making, and holiday-themed events. Parents are also encouraged to involve the children in book reading contests for which prizes are typically given as incentives, while children develop an enjoyment of leisure reading.
Frequently referred to as well-baby or well-child healthcare visits, pediatricians provide primary care services geared specifically towards infants and small children such as immunizations and physicals. Doctors monitor physical growth and development, checking height and weight at each visit to assess for abnormal growth patterns. Laboratory blood and urine testing is also performed to analyze for proper blood cell and platelet concentration. Physicians also may consult with parents regarding any health or developmental concerns that they may have regarding their children.