In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Selected History of Early Childhood Care and Education

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Academic Articles
  • Comparative Studies

Childhood Studies Selected History of Early Childhood Care and Education
Annabella Cant
  • LAST MODIFIED: 28 July 2021
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199791231-0236


A glimpse into a chronological journey of the lives and ideas of educationalists that have globally influenced the field of early childhood care and education (ECCE) is a necessary step for all educators. To better understand today’s practices as well as today’s errors, misunderstandings, and reinventions, this necessary time travel will offer the reader an international perspective on the sources of multiple concepts in the field of ECCE. By being exposed to the sometimes contentious and messy field of early childhood education, educators and early childhood scholars can consider the ideas and practices that best fit their current time, context, culture, and place. Once introduced to historical ideas and principles of practice in the field of early childhood education, readers can identify the roots of core concepts that are applied today in the education of the very young. Early childhood scholars and practitioners are advocating and fighting to be more valued by policy, governments, and the society as whole, and this ages-long struggle can be supported by the strong voices of the past. The biographical writings in this article will offer the reader only a glimpse into those efforts, a peek at the extreme activism of some and fight until death of others. In the last section, Comparative Studies, the reader will discover a network of connections between ideas, philosophies, practice, and experiences of thinkers from different times and different parts of the world. This network of ideas, if studied and qualitatively summarized, will support beginner educators to crystalize their own views and form their own teaching philosophy. This article contains a General Overviews chapter and one with Academic Articles that will warm up the reader by presenting overarching images of the tumultuous history of ECCE. Next is a chapter on the International History of Early Childhood Care and Education. The article continues with a chronological succession of thinkers who have built and strengthened the foundation of education in general, and of early childhood care and education in particular. They are introduced through their own voices and then analyzed by followers and critics. The selection of thinkers is far from being comprehensive and is based on their globally arching influence. Most of the thinkers proposed change, and some implemented reforms that are still viable today. They have all lived, to a degree, a Sisyphean effort to convince a world of adults that children matter more than previously thought. These past and present practitioners and theorists had tried to convince the world that children are not unfinished human beings, but competent and complex at every age. A surprising element of the historical insight will be the contemporary feel of some ideas that date back hundreds of years.

General Overviews

Overviews of the images of childhood can be found in Hinitz 2013 and May 2013, and discussion about policy through a historical lens is presented in Morgan 2011 and Isenberg and Renck Jalongo 2003. Theories about early childhood education are presented in Morgan 1999 and Nutbrown and Clough 2014. A more practical view on early childhood education is offered by Follari 2015 and Morgan 2011. A timeline perspective is found in Lascarides and Hinitz 2000, Pound 2019, and Prochner 2009.

  • Follari, Lissanna. Foundations and Best Practices in Early Childhood Education: History, Theories, and Approaches to Learning. Melbourne: Pearson Higher Education AU, 2015.

    The book helps early childhood practitioners to connect ideas from theory and philosophy to professional practice in the field of early learning.

  • Hinitz, Blythe Simone Farb, ed. The Hidden History of Early Childhood Education. New York: Routledge, 2013.

    The book engages with a multitude of ideas that should have been part of everyday practice of early education, and reveals new ideas that could improve the field in the United States.

  • Isenberg, Joan P., and Mary Renck Jalongo, eds. Major Trends and Issues in Early Childhood Education: Challenges, Controversies, and Insights. New York: Teachers College Press, 2003.

    Essays that discuss social, political, and psychological roots of today’s state of early childhood education.

  • Lascarides, V. Celia, and Blythe F. Hinitz. History of Early Childhood Education. Garland Reference Library of Social Science 982. London and New York: Routledge, 2000.

    A journey into the history of early childhood education that starts in antiquity. It emphasizes the deep and long-lasting traditions in this field of education.

  • May, Helen. The Discovery of Early Childhood. Wellington, New Zealand: NZCER Press, 2013.

    A book that introduces the reader to important thinkers and theorists in early childhood education from the Enlightenment to current times. It revisits personalities in both Europe and New Zealand.

  • Morgan, Harry. The Imagination of Early Childhood Education. Westport, CT: Bergin & Garvey, 1999.

    A book meant to introduce readers to the role of the imagination of great thinkers, theorists, and practitioners in the field of education, each placed chronologically into the context of their times.

  • Morgan, Harry. Early Childhood Education: History, Theory, and Practice. New York: Rowman & Littlefield, 2011.

    A historical journey into the philosophies and theories behind today’s practice in the field of early childhood education. This journey tries to demonstrate the evolution of this field toward becoming a salient part of the educational society.

  • Nutbrown, Cathy, and Peter Clough. Early Childhood Education: History, Philosophy and Experience. Los Angeles: SAGE, 2014.

    DOI: 10.4135/9781446288863

    A review of the ideas behind policies that are the base of the state of early childhood education today.

  • Pound, Linda. How Children Learn. New ed. Vol. 1. Invercargill, New Zealand: Andrews UK Limited, 2019.

    An accessible timeline of the main theorists and practitioners in the field of early childhood education. Each chapter portrays a thinker and their main contributions to the field.

  • Prochner, Larry. A History of Early Childhood Education in Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. Vancouver: UBC Press, 2009.

    The book follows the footsteps of ideas and ideals about childhood education that originated in Europe, and shows how they morphed in the hands of colonizers.

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