EARLY Childhood Development (ECD) centres are important in communities as they help to prepare young children for primary school education. Speaking on the matter, the early childhood project manager at Letcee, Poonam Dwarkaram, said: “Research shows that 80% of the child’s brain is developed by the age of five. “ECD centres provide essential ECD stimulation through developmentally appropriate activities for young children who are not able to access this need.”Dwarkaram said the centres have guidelines on what the appropriate activities are and the practitioners working with young children receive ongoing training on ECD and how they can provide new and exciting activities for children, who they learn through play.“The activities are designed specifically for the children and ensure that the following areas are developed: fine motor skills, gross motor skills, cognitive development, physical development, social and emotional skills. “The centres play a vital role in the development of children as they not only provide children with activities, but also with nutritious meals. “They are also a safe place for the children to play, learn and socialise with other children,” Dwarkaram said. Letcee is one of the organisations that runs ECD centres, offering various programmes to assist children.“In our programme, we have guidelines for the ECD centre practitioners on the activities to be done with the children. There is no set time, or a rigid programme in place, however we do our best in ensuring that the children learn through play-based activities. “The centres also provide two meals (breakfast/lunch) for the children,” Dwarkaram added. Dwarkaram advised parents to be careful when choosing an ECD centre for their child.“A registered preschool should have their Department of Social Development (DSD) ECD registration certificate as well as their health certificate displayed for the parents to see. The following are some of the things parents can look out for when choosing a good centre for their children: safety, security, age appropriate activities, qualified and experienced practitioners as well as nutritionally balanced meals in the centres,” Dwarkaram said.