Alexandria, VA – By the time you read this article, another school year will be underway in Alexandria. Did you know that the foundation for success in school begins at home, where parents and caregivers provide the basic building blocks of learning for their infants, toddlers, and preschool children?
It’s never too early to begin getting children ready for the life-changing milestone known as kindergarten. That’s why Kids’ First Years and our dedicated community partners believe in the power of The Basics, five science-based parenting and caregiving principles that can be adapted for children from newborn to age five. The Basics can help all children reach their full potential.
The five principles of The Basics are outlined below, along with examples of how to easily incorporate them into a child’s day-to-day routine:
Maximize Love, Manage Stress: Children thrive when their world feels loving, safe, and predictable. When you express your love and respond to their needs, you teach that they can count on you. When things don’t go as planned, focus on the big picture and be gentle with yourself. You can help your child to better understand your feelings by talking about them, such as saying, “I was so frustrated this morning when I spilled coffee on my shirt.” Be excited about all the new skills your child is learning and discovering; remember that testing limits is a natural part of learning.
Talk, Sing, and Point: Children learn language from the beginning. Whatever your child’s age, you should talk with them as you go about your day together. When changing, feeding, or bathing your baby, describe what you are doing. Talk with them about what you see when you’re out on a walk, running errands, or riding in the car. Respond to their sounds with words. As your child gets older, foster their curiosity in the world around them by asking questions and encouraging them to ask questions of their own.
Count, Group, and Compare: Becoming good at math begins long before a child enters school. Even babies can do simple math, such as noticing amounts of solids and liquids and recognizing patterns. Toddlers love learning math concepts, such as comparing sizes and shapes. You can help your child learn math as you play and talk during everyday moments. By building on their natural skills and interests, you will boost their confidence and understanding. Talk to your child about things that are different sizes. Find opportunities to compare amounts using words such as “less” and “more.”
Explore Through Movement and Play: Children explore and learn about the world through movement and play. There are many kinds of play: exploring objects and their features using the senses, silly games with loved ones, imaginative and pretend play, creative activities such as drawing, and physical play, such as crawling or rolling a ball. Movement and play keep children healthy and build their coordination and strength. Your child benefits from spending periods playing with others and time playing alone, figuring things out independently (with an adult nearby). Help them build on their interests and see where their curiosity takes them.
Read and Discuss Stories: Reading aloud with your child from the very beginning of their life is one of the most important things you can do to prepare your child to do well in school. Reading and talking to your child about the story builds their language skills and sparks their imagination. Read aloud every single day and, as you do, talk about what you read with your child. Your baby might want to hold the book, turn the pages, or pat the pictures. If your child is older, ask them questions about what they see in the book or what they think will happen next. Reading together creates bonds and cherished memories for parents and children.
In conclusion: Science shows that 80% of brain growth happens by age three. Starting at birth, young brains develop like little muscles, getting bigger and stronger the more you and your family interact with your child.
Visit kidsfirstyears.org/basics to learn more about The Basics and to sign up for weekly text messages with fun activities tied to the five principles described above.