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Everything listed under: Early Childhood

  • Child Development in the First Five Years

    Proper rest, good nutrition, and a safe home life are things that many of us take for granted, but that Missouri children born into poverty struggle with every day. From birth through kindergarten, a child’s home environment and basic care provisions have a huge impact on their educational success later in live.

    Missouri Parent believes that the first five years are critical to a child’s success, which is why we created this series of posts called Child Development in the First Five Years. You can read each post in the series on the Missouri Parent Blog:

    Child Development in the First Five Years

    Child Development in the First Five Years: The Importance of Rest

    Child Development in the First Five Years: Proper Nutrition is Key

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

    Tweet about child development in the first five years using the hashtag #EarlyEd.

    The first five years make a difference in a child’s life, affecting their ability to learn and thrive in kindergarten and beyond. If you have friends with young children at home, we hope that you’ll share this series of posts.

    If you’d like to keep learning about ways to help kids succeed in Missouri public schools, bookmark Missouri Parent News and connect with Missouri Parent on Facebook and Twitter.


  • Child Development in the First Five Years Part 2: The Importance of Rest

    This post is Part 2 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 read the first post here.


    Research shows that rest plays a big role in a child’s mental, emotional, and physical development. The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) says that sleep improves learning, helps children pay attention, and aids in creative thinking.

    Children who don’t get enough rest, according to the NHLBI, may have trouble getting along with others, and might struggle to stay awake and pay attention in school. (Source)

    When children live in lower socioeconomic environments, these problems are compounded. The American Psychological Association (APA) says that children living in lower socioeconomic conditions suffer more from lost sleep than kids do who live in middle-class or upper-class homes:

    “Social class moderated the link between children’s sleep and cognitive functioning on standardized ability tests. Children of middle and lower class had similar performance when sleep was optimal, but when sleep was poor, lower SES children’s cognitive performance suffered.” (Source)

    It’s not surprising that poor sleep affects a child’s alertness the next day. It’s more surprising to learn that research shows a correlation between poor sleep patterns now and a child’s academic performance two years later. Children who sleep in early childhood are more likely to be successful when they start school years later.

    Parents Can Help Young Children to Sleep Well

    A number of factors contribute to poor sleep in young children. Some of those factors, like minimizing cigarette smoke in the home, are relatively easy for parents to control. Factors like reducing family conflict, however, might be more difficult to address.

    The APA recommends that parents pay attention to the physical environment a child sleeps in, as well as to the psychological environment around them. Physical things like a comfortable bed affect sleep, but it’s also affected by more complex factors like family conflict:

    “Clean, comfortable bedding, adequate heating and cooling, and reduction of airborne toxins (e.g. tobacco smoke; allergens) all facilitate good sleep. In the psychosocial realm, parental management of bedtimes, monitoring of caffeine, restricting media use, noise abatement and reducing precipitators of anxiety (e.g. family conflict), are all ways to improve sleep.” (Source)

    Getting a good night’s rest is critical for babies, toddlers, and preschoolers to grow into healthy kindergarteners who are mentally, physically, and emotionally ready to start school.

    Rest isn’t the only critical ingredient to good health during the first five years. In our next post, we’ll take a look at the importance of nutrition. Come back for the next post in this four-part series on early childhood development.

    If you found this post helpful, we encourage you to bookmark the Missouri Parent Blog and to follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

    Learn More:
    Child Development in the First Five Years
    Now for Later: A Campaign for Early Childhood Education in Missouri
    Preparing Your Child for Kindergarten in Missouri
    Missouri Updates to 10 by 20
    Tax Breaks Don’t Benefit Students



  • 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.



  • Child Development in the First Five Years Part 3: Proper Nutrition is Key

    This post is Part 3 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.

    Read the first post in the series here.


    Proper rest, good nutrition, and a safe and supportive home life each have a direct impact on a young child’s readiness for and success in school. Nourishment is critical for child development from birth to age five, and many state and federal organizations exist to ensure that all children have access to the nutritional resources they need.

    Good Nutrition in the First Five Years
    The first five years of life are crucial for a child’s physical, cognitive, and emotional development. Proper nourishment begins during pregnancy, and it continues throughout childhood.

    A child’s exact nutritional needs change over time, but because a child’s brain develops so rapidly in the first few years, it’s vital that children get enough protein and other nutrients. The National Center for Infants, Toddlers, and Families says that:

    “Brain development is most sensitive to a baby's nutrition between mid-gestation and two years of age. Children who are malnourished--not just fussy eaters but truly deprived of adequate calories and protein in their diet--throughout this period do not adequately grow, either physically or mentally.”– (Source)

    Adequate physical and mental growth in the early years directly affects a child’s likelihood of success from kindergarten through high school graduation and beyond. The No Kid Hungry campaign says, “Poor early childhood nutrition can negatively impact a child’s physical and emotional development in both the short- and long-term and limit adult achievement and productivity.” (Source)

    It’s amazing that adult achievement is influenced by something as far removed as basic nourishment in infancy. The National Center for Infants, Toddlers, and Families, however, says that malnourished infants suffer long-lasting issues ranging from cognitive deficits to slower language and motor skills development. Malnourished infants often have lower IQs and poorer school performance than their well-nourished peers. (Source)

    Though a newborn’s needs are different from those of a four-year-old, access to nourishing foods is critical in the years when the brain is developing the most rapidly. Unfortunately, not all babies and young children have access to well-rounded, nourishing meals at home. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), children in approximately one in six households are at risk of going hungry.

    Kids raised in poverty are at a clear nutritional disadvantage that extends to kindergarten preparedness and success all through school. Thankfully, a number of state and federal resources exist to help level the playing field for young children whose caregivers struggle to put food healthy on the family table.

    Early Childhood Nutritional Resources Families in Need
    Childhood nutrition and brain development begin during pregnancy. One of the country’s leading resources for pregnant women and young children is the Women Infants and Children (WIC) Program.

    Pregnant women and new parents in Missouri can get breastfeeding support, free supplemental food, nutritional counseling, and health services through the Missouri WIC program. The Missouri Head Start program also helps by providing health and nutrition screenings for young children.

    Learn More: You can read more about early childhood health screenings in this post.

    Federal Home Visiting Programs, like those run by Parents as Teachers, provide high needs families and at-risk families with direct, at-home support and access to parent education. Outside the home, the Special Milk Program provides milk to kids at school and in childcare centers and camps.

    Do you know a baby, toddler or preschooler who might not be getting enough to eat at home? Please share this post with them or help put them in touch with one of the government organizations we’ve highlighted here.

    Proper nourishment from pregnancy through age five can help prepare at-risk children for success in kindergarten and beyond. If you know a family who’s having trouble providing nutritious meals to their young child or a pregnant mother who needs help affording healthy foods, reach out. You might be able to help connect them to the resources they need.

    Continue to learn more about early childhood education by bookmarking the Missouri Parent Blog. We’ll update you on legislation and funding issues affecting Missouri’s youngest learners, as well as those affecting Missouri K-12 public school students.



  • Early Childhood Education Investment: An Investment in Our Kids & Our Economy

       

    What would you say if we told you that a single type of state investment could do these three big things?

    1. Increase high school graduation rates.
    2. Improve an adult’s job prospects.
    3. Help a great percentage of Missourians become successful contributors to our economy.

    We're here to tell you that early childhood education investments help with all of those things and more.

    Ready Nation is one of the many independent organizations in the U.S. that takes a powerful stand in regards to the return on investment that early childhood education brings to communities, business, and students. It says that quality early learning programs “have been shown to immediately generate about $2 for every $1 invested, through the sale of local goods and services, providing an immediate benefit to communities and making early learning an important economic sector.” (Source)

    If we offered you a retirement plan that had a 2-to-1 return, you would jump on the opportunity. But when policymakers have the opportunity to invest in early childhood education in Missouri, there’s much contention.

    Recently, the Springfield Daily Leader published a news story about a head start program whose state funding suddenly and unexpectedly disappeared. Communities in Springfield, Branson, Bolivar, Marshfield, and Ozark could all be affected.

    Across the state in Kirksville, Missouri, another early childhood program saw November funding cuts. The Northeast Missouri Community Action Agency lost 74 slots for Early Head Start Program students, leaving it funding for just 14 slots. 74 families will be affected. 54 will be slots previously filled by students, and 20 will be prenatal slots—all in a town of less than 18,000 people. (Source)

    Study after study shows that early childhood education is a good investment—not just in kids, but a good investment in economies. Here are just a few examples:

    · Missouri’s own Now for Later campaign says that, “Longitudinal studies indicate a societal return on investment in early childhood programs of approximately $10 per $1 invested.” (Source)

    · A cost-benefit analysis by the Journal of Public Economics “suggests that a dollar invested in an early childhood nutrition program in a developing country could potentially return at least three dollars worth of gains in academic achievement, and perhaps much more.” (Source)

    · Ready Nation says that at-risk students (like those who are often served by the Head Start program like the one mentioned in Kirksville) who participate in quality early childhood learning programs their median earnings” by as much as 36%.” (Source)

    · Nobel Prize-winning economist Dr. James Heckman is a powerful advocate for investing in early childhood education. He believes “the most cost-effective route to strengthening the workforce is to invest in early education.” (Source)

    Missouri must stand up for and invest in early childhood education. Cutting the same programs that a wide body of research has shown has an impressive return on investment while simultaneously funding expensive and inefficient programs like Low-Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTCs) is one more example of bad #MissouriMath.

    A new legislative session will open in Missouri in January, and Missouri Parent believes that it is worth advocating for early childhood education. If you agree, please contact your local lawmakers to let them know that early childhood learning programs are a strong investment in Missouri’s future.

    To stay informed on the January session in the Legislature, and to remain up-to-date on policy and funding issues affecting Missouri public school, bookmark the Missouri Parent Blog and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.


  • Child Development in the First Five Years Part 2: The Importance of Rest

    This post is Part 2 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 read the first post here.


    Research shows that rest plays a big role in a child’s mental, emotional, and physical development. The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) says that sleep improves learning, helps children pay attention, and aids in creative thinking.

    Children who don’t get enough rest, according to the NHLBI, may have trouble getting along with others, and might struggle to stay awake and pay attention in school. (Source)

    When children live in lower socioeconomic environments, these problems are compounded. The American Psychological Association (APA) says that children living in lower socioeconomic conditions suffer more from lost sleep than kids do who live in middle-class or upper-class homes:

    “Social class moderated the link between children’s sleep and cognitive functioning on standardized ability tests. Children of middle and lower class had similar performance when sleep was optimal, but when sleep was poor, lower SES children’s cognitive performance suffered.” (Source)

    It’s not surprising that poor sleep affects a child’s alertness the next day. It’s more surprising to learn that research shows a correlation between poor sleep patterns now and a child’s academic performance two years later. Children who sleep in early childhood are more likely to be successful when they start school years later.

    Parents Can Help Young Children to Sleep Well

    A number of factors contribute to poor sleep in young children. Some of those factors, like minimizing cigarette smoke in the home, are relatively easy for parents to control. Factors like reducing family conflict, however, might be more difficult to address.

    The APA recommends that parents pay attention to the physical environment a child sleeps in, as well as to the psychological environment around them. Physical things like a comfortable bed affect sleep, but it’s also affected by more complex factors like family conflict:

    “Clean, comfortable bedding, adequate heating and cooling, and reduction of airborne toxins (e.g. tobacco smoke; allergens) all facilitate good sleep. In the psychosocial realm, parental management of bedtimes, monitoring of caffeine, restricting media use, noise abatement and reducing precipitators of anxiety (e.g. family conflict), are all ways to improve sleep.” (Source)

    Getting a good night’s rest is critical for babies, toddlers, and preschoolers to grow into healthy kindergarteners who are mentally, physically, and emotionally ready to start school.

    Rest isn’t the only critical ingredient to good health during the first five years. In our next post, we’ll take a look at the importance of nutrition. Come back for the next post in this four-part series on early childhood development.

    Missouri Parent is a free service to all Missouri parents publishing updates on research, policy, and funding issues that affect public education in the state. If you found this post helpful, we encourage you to bookmark the Missouri Parent Blog and to connect with us on Facebook and Twitter.

    Learn More:
    Child Development in the First Five Years
    Now for Later: A Campaign for Early Childhood Education in Missouri
    Preparing Your Child for Kindergarten in Missouri
    Missouri Updates to 10 by 20
    Tax Breaks Don’t Benefit Students

    photo credit: el7bara via photopin cc


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