In his 2013 State of the Union address, President Obama said, “Study after study shows that the sooner a child begins learning, the better he or she does down the road.”
He’s right. Children who are intellectually stimulated in the first three years of life enjoy better outcomes. Typically, they do better in school and gain higher paying jobs. They are engaged in their world and to the people with whom they work and live.
Later, the President said, “every dollar we invest in high-quality early education can save more than seven dollars later on.” He’s right again. Today, communities all over the globe are benefitting from public spending on early childhood education.
Laws are already being passed, opening more slots to Mid-South children. But as parents, we can do our part to steer kids toward a better future — by investing with something other than money; our attention.
For many families, enrolling children in school before kindergarten isn’t an option, but that doesn’t mean getting a head start on education can’t happen. The home is a child’s first classroom, and parents and caregivers, their first teachers.
In their 2012 Data Book: the State of Children in Memphis and Shelby County, The Urban Child Institute points to research that shows that by age 3, a child’s brain has already grown to 80 percent of its full size, and the building blocks of its processing power are forming at a faster rate than they ever will again.
Your baby’s brain is absorbing every new experience, sound and sight, processing these into the mental tools that will carry her through school and beyond. Learning experiences present themselves every day. Chances are you and your family are already making the most of them.
Getting ready for the day, you talk and laugh. Driving to the store, you discuss what you see. Your nighttime routine includes bath, books, and a kiss good-night. On the weekends, you visit the park or grocery, where you engage the people you meet. You take trips, feed goats, make art, and sing songs.
Through it all, you’ve giggled and tickled, listened and talked, and observed the world with your little one. And she benefits from being with you.
It’s this engagement, more than the experiences, that makes the biggest impact. Your attention tells your child what she says is interesting, what he thinks has value. When you answer one question, it sparks a second. This is the investment we can make as parents.
Cute shower gift
Whether you’re expecting a baby, or have a second on the way, your first-born will surely get a giggle reading Barbara Park’s latest picture book, Ma! There’s Nothing to Do Here. With clever rhyming verse, Park tells the story of a baby-in-utero who longs to spend time in the spacious world beyond the womb.
Instead, baby must busy himself swimming and kicking in his mommy’s tummy, content to listen to the tick-tock of Ma’s “happy heart clock.”
Charming illustrations by Viviana Carofoli bring this sweet poem to life; one which evolved from the author seeing her own grandson’s sonogram picture. $7.99 | Random House
Get Creative in the Kitchen
Homemade baby food is both nutritious and easy to make. If you need convincing, pick up Smart Bites for Baby by Le Cordon Bleu chef Mika Shino. With an emphasis on introducing healthy foods to little ones, Shino crafts tasty recipes you can make for your baby and toddler. It helps to enjoy cooking, since Shino takes her job seriously. But you’ll learn how to creatively puree everything, from chicken and salmon to fruits and veggies. We especially like the feeding guides for introducing foods during baby’s first year. More for the adventurous eater, but a yummy collection that promises a healthy start in life. $18 | Lifelong Books