The term early childhood development (ECD) refers to a period of development, the process of early human development, and to programs that promote development during the early years of life. In this entry, the term is used to refer to a period of development and not to processes and programs. Developmental psychologists often divide the early years into the prenatal period, infancy and toddlerhood (birth to 2 years), and the early childhood period (2–6 years). However, in this entry, we consider ECD as covering the period from birth to 8 years, in keeping with professional organizations in the United States (e.g., National Association for the Education of Young Children) as well as internationally. The initial section considers the importance of the early childhood period ...

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