ONE-in-five Wagga children are facing development struggles in their first year of school, according to new data.
To combat the problem, Wagga's KU Koala Preschool director Dibs Cowley said access to quality early learning services was key. She said the early years of a child's life was a significant period because rapid brain development takes place.
Despite development challenges, Wagga has improved in the areas of emotional maturity and social competence.
The latest Australian Early Development Census data has revealed there are fewer developmentally vulnerable children in the domain of emotion maturity, from 8.4 per cent in 2015 to 5.2 per cent in 2018. This looked into aggressive, anxious and impulsive behaviours, ability to concentrate and willingness to help others.
There was also a decrease in the area of social competency from 9.2 per cent in 2015 to 7 per cent in 2018. It measured a child's ability to get along with peers and take responsibility of their actions.
However, there has been no significant changes in the areas of physical health and wellbeing, language and cognitive skills, and communication skills and general knowledge.
Mrs Cowley said the best advice for parents was to send their children to high-quality early learning centres to set them up for success.
"In this setting, children gain confidence and develop the necessary skills. They have the chance to interact with peers and educators in this learning environment," she said.
"Outside this environment, parents can support their children by building their social confidence. Taking them to the park helps them learn life skills through play."
The percentage of children attending playgroup, day care or kindergarten in Wagga has increased since 2015.
Mrs Cowley said this was positive sign because the early learning services benefited children greatly.
However, she said it was important these services are affordable to ensure disadvantaged children have equal opportunities.
"They have the opportunity to build trusting relationships with educators and engage with peers. They are learning life skills, sharing ideas, knowledge and opinions which build their confidence through successes," she said.
"It is important we make services affordable while encouraging many families to access these services."
The suburb of Ashmont has presented the highest figures with 36.6 per cent of children developmentally vulnerable on one or more domains and 26.8 per cent on two or more.
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