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Why is practicing early learning skills at home so essential?

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A child’s family plays a vital role in their early learning and their future success. Not only is it one of the most important factors contributing to children’s social and emotional development, it also is a strong predictor of how well they will perform in school. A 2011 study by Cook, Roggman and Boyce showed “stimulating play interactions between mothers or fathers and their children predicted children’s fifth-grade math and reading abilities.” Early learning doesn’t end or begin in the child care setting. It starts at home with the family.

When to begin?
The moment a child is born he or she begins absorbing information. From birth to age three a child’s brain is forming 700 new neural connections every second.

Tips for the early learning at home

  • Newborns love lullabies – Singing catchy rhythmic melodies is a great way to introduce your little one to words. She may not know what you’re saying at first, but over time and through repetition the melody, words and rhythm will begin to stick.
  • Babies love books – By six months of age, catch babies’ attention by exciting them with colorful picture books with bright pages and lots of rhythm and rhymes. Babies also learn motor skills by putting cardboard books in their mouths and helping to turn pages.
  • Toddlers love talk – Having conversations with children about everyday experiences helps them better understand and express their world with language.  Instead of asking yes or no questions, ask thought provoking and open-ended questions, like “What color is the leaf?” or “What do you see outside?” During story time, after reading a new book’s title and ask children to predict what the story’s about. Or, in a picture book show children the images and ask them what the story might be about.    

Paving the way
During children’s early years, caregivers have the unique ability to guide their outlook on education and learning. Help fuel a child’s desire to learn by:

Being a role model – Adults’ attitudes toward education can help shape children’s view of learning. If children see learning and education as something important to the adults they respect and love, it’s more likely to become a priority to them. 

Responding with warmth – From infancy to early childhood, communicating with children using sensitive, warm and nurturing responses helps them develop self-control, confidence and self-esteem they need to succeed in education. For developing infants, early relationships are so important that experts at the National Research Council and Institute of Medicine say, “Nurturing, stable and consistent relationships are the key to healthy growth, development and learning.” 

Keeping it positive and playful – Playing with children is one of the most effective ways to help them learn. Play helps to develop children’s imagination and social skills and provides a fun and enjoyable way to interact with children. If children have positive experiences learning, they will want to learn more. Coming up with fun and exciting activities that let children talk, wonder, experiment, create and explore are great ways to ignite their interest in learning.

Fun activities

  • Cooking – boost children’s math and reading skills while cooking by letting them measure and read from the recipe. Improve fine motor skills by having them pour and stir.
  • Blocks – stacking blocks with children teaches them about numbers, shapes, geometry and balance.
  • Puzzles – these brain teasers are a great way to get your child thinking and problem solving. Puzzles can be traditional jigsaw puzzles or 3-D block or structure puzzles; both require children to develop spatial orientation and deduction skills.
  • Outdoor walks – stimulate early learning by asking children lots of thought provoking questions about the world around them using open ended questions, like “What do you see?” or “What do you hear?”
  • Recap the Day - Ask children what they learned today. What was their favorite activity? What did they learn from it? Then consider how the lesson can be continued at home?

Take home message
Engaging children with exciting and enjoyable early learning activities will make learning fun and increase their capacity and desire to learn. Life-long learning follows children through the child care setting into elementary school and beyond. Continuing where child care teachers leave off will reinforce the skills children learn every day. 

Visit to learn more about child care and development, search for a child care provider and learn about the state’s voluntary quality rating system. ABC Quality is administered by the SC Department of Social Services’ Division of Early Care and Education.

By ABC Quality Team on September 12, 2017