Supports Families with Young Children, mind May 11-June 15
The Virginia Early Childhood Foundation and the Library of Virginia have partnered to designate May 11-June 15, sickness the time period between Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, discount as an opportunity to focus on the unique needs of young children and to recognize that Smart Beginnings Start with Families.
Both of these partner organizations develop and implement statewide strategies to help parents and families provide young children with a strong foundation for school readiness and language development in the formative years from birth through age five.
The Virginia Early Childhood Foundation (VECF) works in collaboration with Smart Beginnings initiatives in communities across the Commonwealth to promote school readiness and quality early experiences through a wide variety of initiatives designed to support families with young children.
The Library of Virginia provides educational programs and resources on Virginia history and culture for students and teachers throughout the state, and consults with Virginia’s public libraries to create enriching programs that encourage a love of reading in children of all ages.
Smart Beginnings Start with Families offers several free resources that can be downloaded from www.smartbeginnings.org, including a Tip Sheet of parenting tips, a Facebook cover photo and information about how key stakeholders such as schools, libraries, child care providers and healthcare professionals can support families with young children.
“We are delighted to partner with VECF on this innovative initiative to honor families and recognize the pivotal role of parental guidance in the lives of young children,” said Dr. Sandra “Sandy” Treadway, Librarian of Virginia. “One way to celebrate Smart Beginnings Start with Families is for parents to enroll their children in the summer reading program sponsored by their local library. Even the youngest child enjoys being read to and looking at picture books with an adult. Reading helps children discover and understand how the world works.”
“Since Smart Beginnings Start with Families is bookended by Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, it’s an ideal time to renew our collective commitment to support families with young children at all levels of community involvement, including business leaders, elected officials, libraries, healthcare and social service agencies, among other stakeholders,” said Kathy Glazer, President of the Virginia Early Childhood Foundation.
“During this special time, we salute moms, dads, grandparents and other family members across the Commonwealth in their efforts to provide children with a strong foundation for school, life and workforce success.”
Parents Are Teachers, Too!
Researchers in neuroscience now realize “brains are not born, but built.” Unlike most other organs, the brain is not complete at birth! Although the brain cells are all in place, the “wiring” of the brain is not fully formed, but emerges over time through stimulation in the context of nurturing relationships, with the most rapid explosion in synaptic connections between cells occurring in the first few years of life. This period builds either a sturdy or a weak foundation for all learning that follows.
Why is this important for parents and caregivers to know? Parents are the very first teachers a child has—and, in fact, are co-architects of the brain. The loving interaction between a young child and the parent builds on and expands nature’s basic foundation. Scientists describe this interaction as a “serve and return” action: the child naturally reaches out to the parent in some way, and adults respond with words or gestures. This back and forth exchange strengthens the architecture of the brain, affirms the child’s sense of worth, and enhances social development.
We have always known parents are important—science simply confirms and gives practical definition to their impact. So what is a loving parent to do? Fortunately, this is not rocket science—here are some tips:
• Give consistent, loving care, with gentle, affectionate touch, promoting both physical and brain development.
• Engage in language with your child from the moment of birth, using words, songs, books and rhymes. Watch for and respond to cues from your child, practicing “serve and return” interaction. Repeat whatever your child says, adding additional words. Note: passively watching TV does not have the same impact!
• Look for teachable moments all through the day, using ordinary actions as “windows for learning.” Name items, identify colors, count, describe things outdoors and concepts such as bigger/smaller, hot/cold.
• Introduce children to music, which develops the areas of the brain required for math and spatial reasoning.
• Mirror the behavior you want to see in your child: a soft voice, patience in solving problems, ways to handle a variety of emotions. A child’s healthy attachment to the parent provides the necessary foundation for trust, independence, and effective relationships with others later in life.
The foundation for success in school and life begins at or before birth, with parents enjoying the privilege of being the very first teachers for their child, followed by additional partners in the educational process.
For more information about Smart Beginnings Start with Families, visit www.smartbeginnings.org.
Tips to be an active participant in your child’s early learning
- Play with your child – play is an essential way for children to learn about their world
- Create and keep routines – children do best when they know what to expect
- Read at bedtime – this helps your child to settle down after a busy day and sets the stage for a lifetime love of reading
- Have meals together as often as possible – mealtimes are great ways to spend time together and share family values, while also teaching good eating habits and table manners
- Take time to talk and listen – talking to your baby or toddler stimulates brain development and builds a strong foundation for learning
- Show respect to gain respect – put down the cell phone, turn off the computer/TV and focus on activities, conversations or homework with your child
- Show unconditional love – talk through your child’s challenging behaviors with guidance and love, without threats; acknowledge your own mistakes when your child is old enough to understand