All children are born learning. Together, we shape their learning.
The first few years of a child's life provides the foundation for their future success because that’s when the brain architecture-the structure of the brain-is being built. In fact, a young child’s brain is twice as active as an adult’s during that construction. That’s why a baby has 1,000 trillion synapse connections at 8 months, but adults have only 500 trillion. With the proper interactions during the first few years, a baby’s brain architecture becomes strong.
A child’s day-to-day experiences affect the structural and functional development of his or her brain, including intelligence and personality. Without the proper early education steps, by the age of 5, many children in high-risk environments are already developmentally behind. This gap only grows over time-undermining school readiness and success in life. The quality of a young child’s environment and social experience has a decisive, long-lasting impact on their ability to learn.
- Kindergarten teachers estimate that 1 in 3 children enter the classroom unprepared to meet the challenges of kindergarten.
- Some 46% of kindergarteners come to school at risk for failure.
- The poorest children start kindergarten 1-2 years behind in language and other skills important to school success.
- 1 in 3 children are born in poverty.
United Way challenges parents and our community to change those statistics.
Here are 12 helpful steps in the right direction:
- The first years last forever. Wiring a brain is like wiring a house; it works better if you start from the beginning.
- You cannot spoil a baby. Be warm, loving and pay attention to your child's sounds, movements and expressions.
- Talk, read, & sing to your child. You are your child's first teacher.
- Have a regular schedule. Children find comfort in the same routine every day.
- Play is the work of the young child. Encourage safe exploration and play.
- Pay attention to your child. Be aware of how, where and with whom your child spends his time. Choose TV, radio and internet carefully.
- Take care of yourself. You cannot take care of your child if your basic needs are not also being met.
- Discipline to teach not punish. Use discipline as an opportunity to teach appropriate behavior. Never hit or shake a child.
- Choose quality child care & stay involved. For local information on childcare sites, dial 2-1-1.
- Children develop at different rates. Celebrate each child.
- Give your child a childhood. Children need unstructured time. More is not always better.
- Children need to know they matter. Show your children they are loved for who they are.
These messages encourage regular, simple interaction with children, starting with activities that parents can do with their infants to stimulate learning. It also helps volunteers educate parents and caregivers about the importance of their behavior toward their child and what a difference it can make in short- and long-term developmental outcomes. Parents will do a better job adopting and maintaining preferred parenting behaviors if they receive support for these behaviors and if they have a sense of belonging to a community larger than themselves.