Archive: Early Learning

Raising Bilingual Children

The percent of children who speak a language other than English at home has risen from 10% to 21% in the past three decades, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. The amount of bilingual kids is on the rise and, while it’s actually been proven that older children may have an advantage when learning a second language, it never hurts to begin early. Starting off with more than one language as a baby will not slow progress of language in any way and will only advance memorization and problem solving skills. Here are some helpful tips for raising bilingual children:

 

Learn with them.

If you don’t already speak the second language you’re introducing to your child, this is your opportunity to learn too. They better you understand what you expect your little one to learn, the more thorough job you can do teaching them.

 

Start small.

Don’t feel like you need to be a pro and start speaking half in English and half in the chosen language. Start by throwing in a couple bedtime books in Spanish. Or sing simple, children’s French songs in the car. Adding small splashes of the secondary language will help teach your toddler basic vocabulary and concepts, the first start to raising a bilingual child.

 

Hire bilingual help.

Need a babysitter or nanny? Consider hiring one who speaks a second language and request that they communicate with your kids using that language at least 50% of the time. This is a great approach because it incorporates handy, everyday activities with the new vocabulary, making it easier to learn the familiar actions.

 

Take a vacation.

If affordable, travel to a country that speaks the language your child is learning. This is an especially great option as children get older and learn social skills. It will give them the opportunity to use their new language while making new friends.

 

Sources:

-Lowry, Lauren. “Bilingualism in Young Children: Separating Fact from Fiction.” The Hanen Center.

-“Raising bilingual kids: benefits and techniques.” PHD in Parenting.

-“ Fast Facts: English Language Learners.”  National Center for Education Statistics.

-Paturel, Amy. “A Guide to Raising Bilingual Children.” Parenting.com

-Photo courtesy of Phaitoon/freedigitalphotos.net

Do Early Preschool Programs Start Kids Too Young?

How early is too early to start your child in a school-based program? Can a two-year-old really gain anything from an early learning program? Are these programs really just daycares in disguise? These are all questions that may run through your mind when considering if you should enroll your child in an early preschool program, sometimes referred to as “Two’s programs.”

 

Don’t worry! Enrolling your two-year-old in an early learning program is neither too strict nor silly. Some benefits of early childhood education include:

-Improved social skills

-Practice interacting with adults

-Early intervention and the opportunity to spot any developmental delays

 

Here are some tips on what to look for if you decide to enroll your child in an early preschool program:

-Read reviews to get an idea of what’s available

-Visit the school to get a feel for the early program.

-Meet with the teacher and ask them about experience, background, and daily activities.

-Look for smaller group sizes. This is important, especially for little ones just starting out who aren’t used to learning in big group settings yet.

-Make sure the program offers plenty of communication through conferences, phone calls and any other form. This is an opportunity to learn about your child’s strengths, weaknesses and interests.

 

Sources:

-“What are the Benefits of Early Childhood Education?” LiveStrong

-“Early Preschool: Too Young for School?” Parenting.com

-Photo courtesy of Stuart Miles/freedigitalphotos.net

It starts early

A great infographic pointing out how critical early education is in a child’s development. Today, there is not enough focus on these important years. The good news is there are a ton of simple activities and ways parents and educators can help build a child’s foundation.

Separation Anxiety: 8 Tips to help your child’s transition

Finding childcare and/or preschool that fits your needs is a relief. That relief, however, is generally short lived as it quickly comes time to take your child for the first time. More accurately, it comes time to say goodbye to your child for the first time. This emotionally volatile, stomach-turning moment is some painful for everyone involved. Many preschool teachers and childcare providers would probably argue that the children are more resilient than their parents… so here are a few tips that will help you manage the separation anxiety on both sides and make those first couple of weeks less stressful.

1. Prepare your child. Start talking to your child several weeks out about the changes that will take place. In language they can understand and make their own, talk through what the new day will look like.

2. Create excitement. As you talk to her, talk about the exciting things she will get to do in her new classroom or with her new friends.

3. Acknowledge it may be scary or sad. Be upbeat but don’t sugar coat the experience. Let him know he may be sad or get a bit scared and that is okay. Talk to him about what he can do if he feels like this. For younger children this is hard but it helps to focus on soothing activities or objects that will help him adjust.

4. Establish a routine. This is incredibly important. Children need structure and predictability especially in the face of change. Develop your own separation routine with your child. Let them help create the routine, making it theirs. It might be three hugs and 4 kisses. Or, it may be a story then waving goodbye from the window. Whatever it is, create it and stick to it.

5. Plan to stick around. The first week is usually the hardest. Schedule accordingly. Help your child ease into their new environment with you around as a safety net. Encourage him to explore more independently, gradually becoming more confident. This will help as you shorten your ‘drop off’ time

6. Find a goodbye buddy. Every preschool or childcare is different but if possible make a separation buddy. Talk with the teachers/staff members and determine what will work best for your schedule and who your child is naturally bonding with. Ideally, this will be part of your routine giving your child a sense of stability and security as you depart.

7. NEVER sneak away. While it may be tempting to slip away quietly while she is engaged in her new surroundings, you are only fanning any anxiety she may have. Mommy or Daddy disappearing is not a concept you want her to try to make sense of. Again, create your routine and stick to it.

8. Show interest in their day. Give your child a fun and open way to show you the things they did while you were away. This helps them know even though you are not their you still care and are thinking about them. It also makes finishing the day exciting and fun for them.

Stop Outsourcing Education

This is not about the marginal utility of labor or about the increase of enabling technologies that have made the world flat. This is about getting parents more involved in their child’s education.

First let’s agree on a few things:

-       There is never enough time to do it all as parents…everyday we leave tons of things unfinished

-       Our children have teachers

-       There are lot of great gadgets, programs, tutors, etc that help our children learn

-       There is no substitute for our involvement as parents

Our children need to see us, their parents, demonstrate learning and education is important. This starts at a very early age. Before our children ever touch the formal education system we have the opportunity to create and feed their appetite for learning.

From birth she is learning: learning to manipulate her fingers, express her emotions, recognize faces, and make sounds. Our opportunity, our responsibility starts from day one.

If we outsource that responsibility to the computer, her teachers, the T.V., or her tutor how, will she ever understand we find value in her education? More importantly, without an environment that encourages learning, what will she really learn? Most of us cannot educate our children alone. Teachers, tutors, and technology likely will all play a part. But the glue that holds them all together should be you…the parent.

Time for a healthy breakfast

Nutrition is a key ingredient in a child’s development. Nutrition plays an important role in long-term development but also in the day-to-day learning activity of young children. As a 2007 study pointed out the effects of nutrition are not limited to under nourished children, which clearly must be addressed, but also extends to children that many would consider well fed. They found statistically significant cognitive gains among all children who were given a vitamin and mineral supplement.

Recognizing the fundamental role of nutrition plays in the educational setting the U.S. Department of Agriculture just released a new proposal this week that changes the requirements for subsidized school lunches. The proposal was combined with new legislation extending the requirements to all school based lunches not just subsidized programs to improve nutritional standards for all school children and hopefully improve learning and development.

The proposal, though still in the early stages, changes the current standards to include more fresh fruits and vegetables and limits the amount of transfats and non whole grains served. While not blockbuster and likely still a couple of years from taking effect, the change highlights the importance of nutrition for a child’s learning and development.

As parents this is hopefully not news. It should be, however, a reminder that we (as parents) contribute to our children’s education and development in many important ways. Understanding all of the ways we can set our children up for success is the first step, making it a habit is the second and most important step. Most of us recognize the importance of healthy eating, but we also know how hectic the day can become when juggling work, kids, and any thing else life sends our way.

Morning times are probably the most challenging for most parents but most important for our children’s nutrition. The chaos that is the morning time generally determines at least two meals – breakfast and lunch. A small amount of planning can go a long way toward improving the morning time routines. Here are a few suggestions that may help alleviate the morning time stress and get you and the kids out of the house with a healthy meal in hand and stomach.

-       Plan for the chaos when shopping: At the grocery store we all have grand plans and great meals in store, but those take time. Pick out items that are fast and nutritious for the morning. Ideally, they are items that are portable (ie a banana and whole grain peanut butter toast) having fast and healthy options available makes it much easier.

-       Bedtime stories & brown bags: Add to your bedtime routine. Reading to our kids is critically important so why not go for the one two combination and involve your kids in packing their lunch for the next day. It’s an opportunity to have fun and involve your children in their own healthy development.

-       Start early: Our children watch us from the very beginning. Create healthy habits from the very beginning, as they are much easier to reinforce and maintain than to create once they are older.

The Value of Early Education

The value and importance of early education and care is too often misunderstood, overlooked, or even dismissed. Whether empirically or instinctively, those who have spent time in early education and care know how formative these years really are. We understand it is not simply finger paints, wooden shapes, and sand boxes; it is the foundation for that a child’s development – physically, emotionally, socially, and intellectually.

A recent editorial in the Detroit Free Press again highlighted the importance of early education and care for the individual child AND for the prosperity of a City and State. I’ve observed it is much harder to make big structural changes in good times. It’s easier for people, companies, governments to maintain the status quo when things are good. It isn’t until the proverbial $#*& hits the fan that change becomes a welcome guest at the party. It’s hard to argue that there is a city that has faced greater challenges than Detroit’s recent struggles.

Much has been written about potential solutions to the City’s woes but this editorial in particular caught my attention because (disclosure – I am admittedly a big proponent of early care & education) of their direct correlation between Michigan’s financial stability and success and an investment in early education and care. And, my hope that Michigan may be the perfect storm of circumstances that enables the case for making early education and care a fundamental building block of any solution may finally reach receptive ears. Noting that a lack of quality early care and education leads to 11% of Michigan kindergartners repeating the grade and costs the state $100M annually, must open at least one pair of ears.

I get that the choice to devote funds to education and more specifically early education is a challenging one for politicians and legislators. Many of the pay offs are over the long haul and most politicians, by the time this investment pays dividends, their political career has long been over. But, 1- there are real dollars at stake and, 2- at some point (and I hope now is that point) you have to change what you put in to get something different back out. Yes, there will always be more immediate gains to be had, but the research has repeatedly shown that the return on investment in early education and care is a multiple of those immediate gains.

I truly hope there is a great test case very soon that other states will rally around. It may be Michigan, it may not, but Band Aids will not fix what is broken. We need a systemic change. As parents, however, we can’t rely on others to solve the problem. We have to be smarter parents…understand what’s important in the early years and what quality early care and education really means. Most importantly, we can’t only outsource our children’s development. There are tons of great teachers and care providers across the country, but the most influential and important person in your child’s early development is you!

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