Different early childhood development jobs can include daycare workers, psychologists and psychiatrists, and physical therapists, among other occupations. Individuals who pursue a career in this field are often skilled in both their area of expertise, such as medicine, and in understanding the stages of normal childhood development. Each position exists to help nurture, encourage, and challenge children to grow physically and mentally so that they can live happy and productive lives.
The time during an individual's life known as early childhood typically occurs between birth and five to six years of age, or that time when a child begins regularly attending school. These formative years create the foundation for a person's ability to speak, reason, work with others, and make a personal identity.
One category of early childhood development jobs is daycare work. A daycare may also be referred to as a nursery school or preschool. These centers typically care for children as young as eight weeks of age and continue to offer programs for them until they are ready to begin school.
The type of care provided, and the individual responsibilities for employees, is often dependent on the age group the daycare worker cares for on a daily basis. Those who work in the infant room are usually responsible for feeding and changing the babies, participating in light play with those that have sufficient neck and back control, and putting the babies down for naps. Once children graduate to the toddler room, some school curriculum is usually incorporated into their day. Toddlers and pre-kindergarteners may be exposed to out of school field trips, classroom worksheets designed to stimulate learning, and constructive play that teaches rules and how to work with others.
Within the daycare setting, there are several different categories of early childhood development jobs that interested parties may explore. Each classroom is generally divided by age and given one primary teacher who selects the daily activities for the children and manages other staff who work in their rooms. These teachers may have several classroom aids who perform a wide variety of activities based on the needs of the teacher and children for the day. A program manager may oversee the whole of the facility and be responsible for hiring and firing new staff, monitoring enrollment, meeting with parents, and filling in for certain teachers as necessary. Most nursery centers also provide food for children enrolled in the program, and have an on site kitchen and kitchen staff who prepare healthy meals for the children based on the needs of each age group.
A large percentage of an individual's physical, mental, and emotional development occurs during the early childhood years. Not all children are born with the same physical and mental characteristics of their peers, and may require the help of a health professional skilled in stimulating these areas of growth. Psychologists, psychiatrists, and mental health counselors comprise a small portion of early childhood development jobs. These individuals are typically consulted when a child shows signs of a social or mental retardation that prevents him from interacting in a healthy manner with other children his age. A professional can meet and speak with a child and his parents on a regular basis to encourage normal interactions, and can also prescribe medications when warranted by the situation.
Children who struggle with the physical aspects of development may need to meet with an early childhood physical therapist. This type of position encourages the development of new muscles as they grow, and teach the child how to use them when movement does not come naturally. The therapist is trained to understand the limitations of a child's body, and how to use positive motivational tools designed to encourage the child to overcome, through exercise or the use of specialized equipment, the shortcomings his body may have developed.