Providing Your Child The Best Start in Life

The first five years of life are a period of incredible growth in all areas of your child’s development. Building a strong relationship with your child will promote healthy brain development, build social and emotional skills, and lay the foundation for language and literacy development.

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Brain Development

Your child’s brain undergoes an amazing period of development from birth to three—producing more than a million neural connections each second.

Learn more about how this development is influenced by relationships, experiences, and environment. 

Top 10 Things for the Best Start in Life

#1 Encourage Interaction


A child’s brain grows based on early experiences at home. The more interactions a child has, the healthier his/her development will be. What Can Parents Do? • Respond quickly to your baby’s needs • Speak in a soft, slow voice • Get down to your child’s level; involve yourself in your child’s play • Engage your child in conversation • Be present in your child’s life




#2: Offer Physical Affection


Physical affection communicates love to young children, which in turn fosters positive emotional growth. What Can Parents Do? • Be gentle and responsive to your baby’s cues • Massage your infant • Hold your child when feeding him/her • Rock your baby and look into his/her eyes • Hold your child on your lap when playing or reading • Hug your child often




#3: Provide a Stable Relationship


Children who have a stable relationship with at least one caregiver learn at a faster pace, feel better about themselves, and make friends more easily. What Can Parents Do? • Hold your child on your lap during stressful situations, such as a doctor’s visit • Be a loving, consistent presence for your child • Create an environment that allows your child to explore, but set limits to show both guidance and care • Be predictable, nurturing and calm when interacting with your child




#4: Maintain a Safe, Healthy Home


Creating a safe and healthy home environment allows you to maximize your child’s growth with minimal risk. What Can Parents Do? • Child-proof your home • Use age-appropriate car seats • Be aware of the dangers of lead poisoning found in old paint chips and paint dust • Feed your child a healthy, nutritious diet and avoid high-fat foods • Visit your child’s physician and dentist regularly • Ensure your child is up-to-date on immunizations • Encourage outdoor play and exercise




#5: Develop Strong Self-Esteem


A strong sense of self is the foundation for healthy development in young children. What Can Parents Do? • Recognize and celebrate that every child is unique from birth • Discover who your child is and value his/her identity • Encourage your child to express himself/herself • Praise your child with concrete positive feedback • Respect your child and teach him/her to respect himself/herself and others




#6: Choose Quality Childcare


Since childcare settings can be a primary learning environment for children, the quality of the childcare setting is very important. What Can Parents Do? • Take an active role in selecting the best childcare for your child • Visit the childcare center with your child to determine your child’s comfort level • Ask yourself these questions when selecting childcare: - Is it a safe, supportive environment? - Do they serve nutritious food? - Do the childcare providers appear to enjoy interacting with the children? - What are the ratios of caregivers to children? Look for the following ratios: 1 caregiver: 3-4 children (ages 0 - 3) - Do the adults speak respectfully to the children and encourage them to express their thoughts and feelings? - Are the adults down on the floor playing with the children? - Does the center welcome parental involvement? - Do the children appear happy?




#7: Engage in Conversation


Communicating with your child not only shows love, but also encourages the development of his/her speech patterns. What Can Parents Do? • Talk to your baby, early and often • Sing to and with your child • Use a broad vocabulary to expose your child to many different words • Engage your child in conversation • Read aloud to your child and ask questions of him/her




#8: Promote Play


Playing provides children with an outlet for imagination and creativity and fosters healthy brain development. What Can Parents Do? • Be your child’s playmate, engage in their play • Encourage play by using everyday household items in creative ways • Get to know your child through play




Tip #9: Make Music


Music offers children an outlet for expression and stimulates brain development in specific areas including language and reasoning. What Can Parents Do? • Involve your child in music • Sing, clap, rock, dance, tap your feet together with your child • Encourage your child to make his/her own music using household items • Play music in your home and encourage your child to sing and dance




#10: Make Reading a Priority


Reading with children demonstrates a love for books and learning, and is a wonderful way for parents and children to spend quality time together. What Can Parents Do? • Read to your child everyday • When you read to your child, hold him/her on your lap • Point to pictures and ask questions • Repeat the same book to help your child make the connection between the written page and the spoken word • Write down a story your child tells you – show them their words in writing





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