Are there resources to help me promote learning for the preschoolers in my care?
What a great question—the early years are critical! Experiences during early childhood shape the structure of the brain in important ways. This means that while children are in your care, you have many golden opportunities to maximize their learning and development.
But your success will depend at least in part on how well you make use of the outside resources available to help your child. For this reason, it is important to understand the roles of the professionals working to support the child. These can include social workers, health care professionals, mental health providers, Guardians ad Litem (GALs), and child care workers. If you have concerns about the child, be sure to share them with the child’s social worker and professional providers so any necessary recommendations and approvals for assessments and services can be provided. Timely evaluations and interventions can be key.
One resource to keep in mind is the NC Infant-Toddler Program. Part of the NC Division of Public Health, this program helps families and children birth to three who have special needs. Assistance available includes physical, occupational, and speech-language therapies; family support; and service coordination. Local Children’s Developmental Services Agencies (CDSAs) facilitate the delivery of these services. Visit https://beearly.nc.gov/ to find a CDSA near you or to learn more about the NC Infant-Toddler Program.
You should also know about Smart Start, a public/private partnership that brings together families, teachers, doctors, caregivers, social workers, and others to better meet children’s needs. Smart Start works to improve the quality of child care, strengthen families, and support healthy child development. This program invests in early education, literacy, health, and family support so children are ready to succeed and lead productive lives. To learn more about Smart Start, visit http://www.smartstart.org/.
Because they encourage development of social skills and adjustment to classroom settings, preschool programs are another fabulous resource. High-quality prekindergarten programs can help stabilize children who have experienced trauma and encourage developmental and social growth for school. For more information, visit the website of the NC Prekindergarten Program (https://bit.ly/2CM3hzK).
Pathways.org is yet another resource. This nonprofit offers free child development information to empower parents and health professionals. Their milestones are supported by American Academy of Pediatrics findings and their games and activities are validated by pediatric physical therapists, occupational therapists, and speech-language pathologists. Available at https://pathways.org/.
Other resources and ways to stay informed can be found at your county department of social services, local health department, and your county schools.
Your Role Is Key
Because caregivers spend so much time with the child, you have a central role to play. You set the tone and example in your home, and there are specific things you can do to cultivate young children’s love of learning. For example, Becton Loveless (2018) encourages parents to:
- Make your enthusiasm for learning clear. When your child sees the joy and excitement learning brings to your life, it is sure to rub off.
- Fill your child’s world with reading. Read to your child often. Have your child read aloud. Set up a daily “family reading time” where everyone in the household reads for 20 minutes. Let children choose what they read, help them read, and create activities for them that make reading fun.
- Focus on your child’s interests. If your child likes sharks, help them find engaging and interesting books and stories about sharks. Then challenge them to identify their five favorite sharks and explain why they chose each one.
- Make every day a learning day. Seize every opportunity to encourage your child to explore the world, ask questions, and make connections. This will help children develop the internal motivation to learn throughout their lives, wherever they may be.
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