Early Education: First Steps Toward a Bright Future
Early experiences shape a child’s future. The first five years of life are critical to development, and early growth is the foundation for future learning.
That’s why it’s never too soon for parents, caregivers, and other adults to actively support children’s intellectual, health, language and emotional development. For example, parents can encourage language development through interactions with their babies before they even talk. And these early interactions lead to future success, as vocabulary in kindergarten correlates strongly with high school reading ability.
Parents can take the first steps toward their children’s lifelong learning and development by understanding early developmental milestones, getting information to choose a high-quality early education program, and finding other supports to help them get ready for kindergarten and the early elementary grades.
By focusing on your child’s development now, you’ll lay the building blocks for future reading and learning. There are many ways to create early learning opportunities at home. With these tips, your child can become a proficient reader by 3rd grade.
- Monitor Milestones – Ask pediatricians, early childhood educators, and even family and friends how to encourage your child’s growth. The Massachusetts Early Learning Guidelines for Infants and Toddlers has helpful information about how children develop during the first three years of life, and the many ways you can support that development.
- Give the Gift of Gab – Talk with your child often, even before they can speak. Carry on playful conversation, and respond to your child’s gestures, facial expressions and any words they use to communicate.
- Teach the Magic of Books – Read to your child – every day. Engage your child based on their stage by repeating words, asking questions about the story and pointing out letters and words.
Quality matters! Research shows that high-quality early education programs can improve children’s school readiness, and future academic, social and health outcomes. And since over two thirds of children under age 6 spend their parents’ working hours in early childhood education and care programs, these provide significant learning opportunities that have an impact on school readiness.
By choosing a high quality program and staying engaged with the program and teachers, you’ll give your child the best start toward becoming Future Ready.
- Search for quality when choosing an early education and care program. Things like curriculum and teacher/child ratio can set programs apart. The Department of Early Education and Care offers helpful Tips for Parents on what to keep in mind when looking at programs.
- Communicate often with your child’s caregivers. Strong partnerships between your home and the program can create a higher-quality experience for children.
- Learn from early educators, and reinforce helpful early learning and development practices at home. Share updates on your child’s development with educators and other adults in their life, too.
While a high-quality early learning experience in the first five years of childhood helps prepare children for success in kindergarten, there’s also a lot you can do on your own.
- Explore – Plan a visit to the Countdown to Kindergarten model classroom at the Boston Children’s Museum or ask your school if there is an opportunity to visit a classroom.
- Keep talking! Use everyday activities to encourage your child’s language development by talking, singing and pretending.
- Stay involved – Bring the spirit of partnership that you established with your early education and care providers with you to your child’s elementary school.