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Child Development in the First Five Years Part 4: A Healthy Home Life

This the final post in a four-part series on how rest, nutrition, and a healthy home life help babies, toddlers, and preschoolers grow into healthy, successful kindergarten students. You can the additional posts in the series here, followed by this post on the importance of proper rest.


In the first part of this series on child development in the first five years, we featured a video created by The Ounce of Prevention Fund in Chicago, Illinois. A child’s voice narrates the video, saying that he’s one of the “thousands of little miracles born into poverty each day”.

Later in the video, the child narrators take turns saying, “I’m twice as likely to be in special education. I’m 30 percent more likely to never go to college. I’m 70 percent more likely to be arrested for a violent crime.”

These are some of the realities for children who are at-risk at home. Learning begins before children start school, so kids who are born into unsafe or unhealthy homes begin life at a disadvantage that can follow them into adulthood. Studies have shown that children are more successful in school—and later in life—when they eat well, get proper rest, and have a safe and emotionally supportive home life in the first five years.

According to the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF),

“...Babies learn rapidly from the moment of their birth.They grow and learn the most when they receive affection, attention and stimulation in addition to good nutrition and proper health care. Investments in early child development through early learning activities and improved school readiness along with health and nutrition interventions increases the likelihood that boys and girls will complete primary school.” (source)

The circumstances surrounding an at-risk child’s home life can be complex, including abuse and neglect, homelessness, and poor (or no) childcare while parents are at work. These aren’t simple problems to fix, and many families might feel truly discouraged by their situations.

Missouri Parent encourages parents and other caregivers to create the safest and most supportive home life possible. Even small changes can make a big difference for young children. Here are a few small ways you can help your baby, toddler, or preschool succeed:

· Read a bedtime story together each night.
· Eat breakfast together in the morning.
· Provide a comfortable sleeping environment for your child.
· Set regular bed times and wake-up times for your child each day.

If your family’s needs are more than you can meet, there are programs and resources out there that can help you take care of your child. Here is a list of state agencies and programs that help families with winter heating costs, child abuse and neglect, and other home life challenges:
· Be an advocate for your child: if your home situation is unsafe, get help.
· Is your home cold this winter? See if you qualify for the Missouri Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) or the Missouri Weatherization Assistance Program.
· Is your baby sleeping in an unsafe bed? The Safe Crib Project from the Children’s Trust Fund of Missouri might be able to help you.
· Early Head Start helps provide safe and developmentally enriching caregiving for infants and toddlers under the age of 3.

In previous posts, we’ve talked about the importance of rest and nutrition in early childhood development. Each of those posts includes links to state and federal programs to help point you in the right direction to help your family or a family you know who has children under the age of five in Missouri.

We hope that you’ll continue to use the Missouri Parent Blog as a resource for information about early childhood education, policies and funding issues in Missouri. You can also follow us on Facebook and Twitter.



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