Top 5 Theories of Early Childhood Education

Theories of early childhood education focus on explaining how children change and grow throughout childhood. Such theories concentrate on various aspects of development, including social, emotional, and cognitive concerns.

Theories of Early Childhood Education
Theories of Early Childhood Education

The study of human development is a rich and varied subject. We all have personal experience with child education and development, but it is sometimes difficult to understand how and why children grow, learn, and act as they do. How children behave in many ways?

Developmental psychologists strive to answer such questions and understand, explain, and predict behaviors that occur throughout the lifespan. This article discuss the top 10 famous early childhood education theories in the modern world.

Read: What can you do with an early childhood education degree

5. Best Theories for  Early Childhood Education

Several different child learning theories arise to explain various aspects of child development. The five most popular theories of early childhood education are famous in the developed countries of Europe and the USA.

1. Erikson’s Theory of Psychosocial Development 

According to famous educationist Erikson, the ego builds up as it productively resolves crises that are social in nature. These involvements establish a sense of trust in children. And develop a sense of identity in society and helping the children prepare for the future. 

Erikson endorses that personality motives in children develop in a prearranged order and builds upon each preceding stage. This is called the epigenetic principle of psychological development in children. The outcome of this ‘maturation timetable’ is a comprehensive and integrated set of life skills and abilities created in the children.

Erikson’s stages of development

Erikson’s theory of psychosocial development has eight distinct stages, taking in five stages up to the age of 18 years and three further stages into adulthood. 

Erikson suggests that there is still plenty of space for continued growth and development all through one’s life. Erikson puts a great deal of emphasis on the adolescent period, feeling it was crucial for developing a person’s identity.

 According to the theory, the achievement of each stage results in a healthy character and the attainment of basic virtues. Essential virtues are characteristic strengths which the ego can employ to resolve ensuing conflicts.

2. Piaget’s Theory of Cognitive Development

Piaget’s theory of cognitive development is a comprehensive theory about the nature and development of human intelligence. It was first created by the Swiss developmental psychologist Jean Piaget.

The theory deals with the nature of knowledge itself and how humans gradually acquire, construct, and use it. Piaget’s theory is mainly known as a developmental stage theory.

Piaget’s theory of cognitive development was a progressive reorganization of mental processes resulting from biological maturation and environmental experience.

He believes that children construct an understanding of the world around them, experience discrepancies between what they already know and what they discover in their environment, and then adjust their ideas accordingly.

Moreover, Piaget claimed that cognitive development is at the center of the human organism; language is contingent on knowledge and understanding acquired through cognitive development. Child-centered classrooms and “open education” direct Piaget’s views. Despite its huge success,

Piaget’s theory has some limitations that Piaget recognized himself: the theory supports sharp stages rather than continuous development. This is an important child learning theory in the world.

3. Bowlby’s Attachment theory by John Bowlby

Psychologist John Bowlby was the first to coin the term. His work in the late 60s established the precedent that childhood development depended heavily upon a child’s ability to form a strong relationship with “at least one primary caregiver”.

Generally speaking, this is one of the parents. Bowlby found that a great deal of developmental energy is expended in the search for stability and security.

In general, those without such attachments are fearful and are less willing to seek out and learn from new experiences. By contrast, a child with a strong attachment to a parent knows that they have “back-up” so to speak, and thusly tend to be more adventurous and eager to have new experiences.

There is some basis in observational psychology here. The baby attached strongly to a caregiver has several of his or her most immediate needs met and accounted for. Consequently, they can spend a great deal more time observing and interacting with their environments. Thusly, their development is facilitated.

For Bowlby, the role of the parent as a caregiver grows over time to meet the particular needs of the attached child. Early on, that role is attached to and provides constant support and security during the formative years. Later, that role is available as the child needs periodic help during their excursions into the outside world.

4. Socio-cultural Theory by Lev Vygotsky

Vygotsky’s socio-cultural theory belongs to human learning. Describes learning as a social process and the origination of human intelligence in society or culture. The central theme of Vygotsky’s theoretical framework is that social interaction plays a fundamental role in developing cognition in children.

Vygotsky believed that everything is learned on two levels. First, through interaction with others, and then integrated into the individual’s mental structure.

Every function in the child’s cultural development appears twice: first, on the social level, and later, on the individual level; first, between people and then inside the child. This applies equally to voluntary attention, to logical memory, and to the formation of concepts.

All the higher functions originate as actual relationships between individuals. The second aspect of Vygotsky’s theory is that cognitive development’s potential is limited to a “zone of proximal development” (Z P D).

This “zone” is the area of exploration for which the learning child is cognitively prepared but requires help and social interaction to fully. A teacher or more experienced peer can provide the learner with “scaffolding” to support the student’s evolving understanding of knowledge domains or the development of complex skills.

Collaborative learning, discourse, modeling, and scaffolding are strategies for supporting learners’ intellectual knowledge and skills and facilitating intentional learning.

5. Learning through Play Theory by Friedrich Froebel

Friedrich Froebel developed a series of educational principles and practices centered around the idea that young children learn by playing. In his native Germany, he developed an activity-based approach to teaching young children involving playing with objects, singing, dancing, and gardening, which in 1840 he named the Kindergarten or ‘child’s garden’. This includes one of the most effective child learning theories in recent days.

Froebel gives an example of active learning pedagogy at work for kindergarten children: For play, the children stand in a circle; the ball just has moved from one child to another and has thus called forth the desire for locomotion in the child.

I might say that one can feel this in the children, even in one particular child. Remarking this, let the wandering of the ball cease, and while drawing the child by hand into the middle of the circle, express the observation just made.

Perspective Analysis of Early Childhood Learning Theories

Learning in children is the ac continuous cognitive process developed through various aspects. The children focus their attention on learning via different processes.

These processes or procedures of learning govern the psychological, social, cultural, and cognitive perspectives regarding the instructional development of a child. Children learn knowledge and skills in social attachments or through playing postures. Learning in play is a significant criterion for the learning process as it attracts the personal likings of the children.


In Conclusion: The theories of early childhood education mentioned above give the notions of child development and education in western countries. The strong and stable development process of child education in these advanced countries formulate a framework that should follow the backward or low developed nations of Asia or Africa.

These theories are the basis of education with a deep understanding and thorough proficiency. The academic evolution rightly recommends applying these influenced theories to keep our children on the highway of progress and development.


  • Froebel, Friedrich [1985]. Friedrich Froebel’s Pedagogics of the Kindergarten: Or, His Ideas Concerning the Play and Playthings of the Child. New York: D. Appleton. pp. 244–246
  • L. S. Vygotsky L. S. [1978]. Mind in Society: Development of Higher Psychological Processes, p. 86
  • Bowlby, John.[1969]. Attachment and Loss.
  • Erikson, E. H., Paul, I. H., Heider, F., & Gardner, R. W. (1959). Psychological issues (Vol. 1). International Universities Press.
  • Piaget, Jean (1972). The Psychology of Intelligence. Totowa, NJ: Littlefield.

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