Monday, January 24, 2011

I had the wonderful opportunity to do a presentation on early brain development on Saturday. There were 80 early childhood professionals participating in this training. It was a -20 wind chill Saturday morning. Even though it was a extremely cold week-end morning, these very dedicated early education providers attended this workshop to learn how they can do even more to support the optimal development of children!

Their commitment initiated my desire to reiterate how critically important it is for us to support, recognize and fund quality early childcare. We need to do ALL we can to ensure every adult provides a safe, healthy, nurturing and stimulating environment.

The brains of young children develop due the experiences they have every day. Their brain adapts to whatever environment it is exposed to. It is critical that we do all we can to ensure every environment is as positive as possible, because brain connections will be made from either positive or negative experiences. Strong brain pathways will be created due to these repeated experiences and will have long lasting impacts on social and cognitive skills.

I was recently asked weather it is better for the brain development of a child to attend a child care center or to stay at home with a parent. My answer was the environment that is going to provide all that the developing brain needs is best. Not all homes provide what is best and not all child care centers provide all that is best. We need to ensure that no matter where I child is cared for, it is an environment that is focused on what growing brains need most.

There are several studies that reveal that early education programs that have positive results are programs of high quality. These are programs where among other factors the teachers are well educated and the number of children per adult is low. Numerous studies have also demonstrated that when schools and families work together for children the benefits are greatest. As a result, economists are now demonstrating how cost beneficial it is to support quality early education and parenting programs.

This article shared in the Huffington Post called, Teach Your Children Well, the author states,
"A commitment to improving the quality of early education benefits everyone and may be the most cost-effective economic investment for our future."  She adds, "Investment in high-quality pre-school and home visitation programs in terms of subsequent educational attainment and in lower rates of social problems, such as crime, teenage pregnancy, and welfare dependency, is wise investment in tomorrow's future."

I feel strongly that the best thing we can do toward making this happen is to first create awareness and understanding. We need to ensure EVERY adult knows that EVERY child needs all of the following every day!

Warm Responsive Care
        Children’s primary need is to know they are loved. This is only learned through consistent nurturing interactions with primary caregivers.

        The brain makes connections for learning language only from what a child hears. A child needs to hear lots of language throughout the day. Language is learned through direct interaction, not from a television or video.

Safe, Healthy Environment
        A variety of nutritious foods, a lead free and safe environment for a child to explore contributes to a well developed brain. A young brain requires predictability and little stress to feel safe and relaxed. Sleep and rest are also necessary to a healthy brain.

        Play is the way the brain learns about the world. Lots of interaction and exploration help the brain form connections that make later learning easier. Play outdoors additionally impacts brain development in healthy ways.

What a child’s brain needs most is adults that understand development. Parents, educators, social-workers, foster parents, nannies, and medical professionals that are aware and well educated on brain development can provide all that a growing brain needs most. Community leaders, employers, judges, politicians, the media and the general public also play a vital role in implementing this valuable knowledge. Through working together we can ensure all children receive the experiences that will most positively impact long lasting brain connections.

        ~ We ALL benefit when ALL children have well developed brains! ~


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