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Everything listed under: Kindergarten

  • 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.

  • Child Development in the First Five Years


    This video, produced by The Ounce of Prevention Fund in Chicago, Illinois, is sobering and inspiring. It’s easy to forget that thousands of babies and young children are born into conditions each year that are detrimental to learning and emotional development.

    Proper rest, good nutrition, and a safe home life — all highlighted in this video — are things that many of us take for granted. For Missouri’s children born into poverty, however, those basic needs are not always met.

    The years from birth to kindergarten have a lasting impact on a child’s school readiness and his or her long-term stability and success. Kids who are raised in healthy, nurturing homes have a head start on those who are not.

    According to UNICEF:

    “Children who receive assistance in their early years achieve more success at school. As adults they have higher employment and earnings, better health, and lower levels of welfare dependence and crime rates than those who don’t have these early opportunities.” (Source)

    One of our goals at Missouri Parent is to provide information to public school parents like you that will help your child to be successful in school. In this case, the information we’ll share is designed to help parents make sure their younger children are prepared for school physically, emotionally, and intellectually when that first day of kindergarten comes along.

    We’ll explore the importance of sleep, nutrition, and a healthy home life on Missouri’s youngest learners: babies, toddlers, and preschoolers from birth to five years old. Along the way, we’ll share links to helpful resources for your family, and we’ll highlight policies and other state initiatives that can help prepare Missouri’s young children for success in kindergarten and beyond.

    Come back to read about the important of rest, and to discover resources available in Missouri that help families provide a safe place for young children to sleep at night, get nutritious meals, and give their kids a safe and supportive home life.

    Learn More About the Importance of Early Childhood Education:

    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

    Keep learning about resources that will help your child enter kindergarten prepared for success by bookmarking the Missouri Parent Blog, liking us on Facebook, or following us on Twitter.

  • Top 10 by 20 Initiative Part III: Entering Kindergarten Prepared for Success

    This post is Part 3 of a series on the Missouri Top 10 by 20 initiative. To read this series from the beginning, click here.

    In 2009, The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) launched a statewide education improvement effort called Missouri Top 10 by 20. The initiative aims for Missouri’s K-12 students to rank in the top 10 states in America in academic performance by the year 2020.

    Missouri 10 by 20 is broken down into several smaller goals and objectives. Those goals and objectives make the initiative more actionable and help hold teachers, administrators, and lawmakers accountable for ensuring student success.

    We’ve written already about Missouri 10 by 20 Goal #1: “All Missouri students will graduate college and career ready”. Today we’re here to talk about Goal #2: “All Missouri children will enter kindergarten prepared to be successful in school”.

    To help young learners prepare for kindergarten, parents need to account for basic factors like creating a safe and nurturing home environment and making sure young children receive the health care they need. Formalized early childhood programs, however, also play a role in preparing kids for kindergarten.

    To that end, Missouri has identified screenings, parent education, and quality early childhood programs as some of the best tools for helping Missouri’s babies, toddlers, and preschoolers get ready for school.

    Health Screenings for Missouri Children

    One of the ways that Missouri measures its success in preparing kids for kindergarten is by tracking the percentage of young children who are screened for health concerns and developmental delays each year.

    Early childhood health screenings help professionals to identify developmental delays, nutritional shortfalls, and other issues that could have a negative impact on a young child’s overall wellness and on his or her success in school.

    The state plans to increase the percentage of young children (birth through kindergarten) who receive developmental screenings and health screenings by 2% annually.

    Learn More: This Q&A, published by DESE, goes into more detail about health and developmental screenings.

    Parent Education Home Visits in Missouri

    Another way that Missouri is helping young children prepare for kindergarten is by providing services and education directly to their parents. Families are a child’s first (and primary) educator: A child will be more prepared for kindergarten if his or her family is engaged and supportive, playing an active role in his or her development and education.

    Parent education home visits provide information, support, and encouragement that parents need to help their children develop in the early years. Programs like Parents as Teachers work with parents to help them understand their child’s development, and home visits also help them to strengthen their parenting practices.

    Home visitors are trained to help families detect developmental delays or other health issues that might be detrimental to a child’s learning and development. They help prevent child abuse and neglect, and all-around, they increase children’s readiness for success in school. (source)

    Missouri’s goal is to increase the number of parent education home visits — to both at-risk and not-at-risk —families with young children by 2% each year.

    Learn More: Parenting Education in Missouri

    Quality Standards in Missouri’s Early Childhood Education Programs

    Finally, Missouri recognizes the need for an increase in the number of early childhood programs for Missouri’s infants, toddlers, and preschools that meet established quality standards.

    Missouri adopted a series of 10 Early Learning Program Standards in 2011 to help ensure high quality early education opportunities that would help prepare Missouri’s youngest learners for school. Some of Missouri’s specific educational programs and grants available to support infant, toddler and preschool education include Missouri Head Start.

    Learn More: Parents as Teachers’ Alignment with State Early Learning Standards

    In June of this year, Governor Nixon signed Senate Bill 869 and House Bill 1831. These two bills “establish a transparent set of quality indicators for child care providers”, says Governor Jay Nixon’s office.

    The Governor says, “these quality indicators will give parents the tools and information they need to choose the right childcare provider for their family.”

    Those quality indicators include things like state licensure, health and safety requirements, use of curricula, additional staff training, and any history of violations. (Source)

    The state hopes to increase these programs by 2% annually.

    Educational and service organizations across the state are working together to provide families with the health screenings, parent education home visits, and higher quality early childhood programs. Together, these programs and services are working to help Missouri reach the Top 10 states in the nation in student performance by 2020.

    Missouri Top 10 by 20 is a statewide improvement effort that aims for student achievement in Missouri to rank among the top 10 states in the nation by 2020. Learn more about Missouri 10 by 20 on the DESE website.

    Missouri Updates Top 10 by 20 for Fiscal Year 2015

    Top 10 by 20 Initiative Part II: Graduating College and Career Ready

    Preparing Your Child for Kindergarten in Missouri

    Now for Later: A Campaign for Early Childhood Education in Missouri

    Stay up to date on Missouri 10 by 20 and other Missouri public education policy and funding initiatives by coming back often to the Missouri Parent Blog, liking us on Facebook and following us on Twitter.

  • Preparing Your Child for Kindergarten in Missouri

    As your child nears the age for kindergarten, you might not be sure exactly what you need to do to make sure that he/she is prepared for enrollment in Missouri Public Schools. Here are a few tips and resources to help get you started: 


    In order to enroll in kindergarten in Missouri, you son or daughter should be five years old before August 1st of the upcoming school year.  What this means is that if your child turns five in September or October, you can enroll him/her in kindergarten the following school year. 

    Both St. Louis and Kansas City School Districts may accept later birth dates, so be sure to check with your local school district to confirm your district’s birth date cutoff. 

    Kindergarten Transition Plan

    The No Child Left Behind Act requires that schools nationwide prepare transition plans to help students move from early childhood education into elementary school. Ask your school district for information about:

    1.      Helping your child transition into kindergarten;
    2.      What developmental stages are typical of pre-k and kindergarten-aged children; and
    3.     What to expect in terms of learning standards, behavioral expectations, and attendance requirements for kindergarteners. 

    Summer School

    Did you know that some public schools offer pre-kindergarten summer school for children? If you’d like your child to have a head start on adjusting to the kindergarten environment and learning experience, check with your local district to find out if summer school is an option for your son or daughter.


    When preparing your child for kindergarten, it’s important to understand Missouri’s School Immunization Requirements. It’s never too early to begin exploring Missouri’s immunization requirements, especially since some of them must be met on or after your son or daughter’s fourth birthday. 

    If your family has religious or medical reasons for not giving your child certain immunizations, the State of Missouri allow exceptions. For details, please contact the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services or your local school district.

    Records & Documentation

    It will be helpful, if not necessary, to have your child’s birth certificate, vaccination and immunization records, and your family’s proof of residence in your district (a utility bill, for example, or a driver’s license that lists your current home address) with you when you enroll your child for kindergarten. For a complete list of required documentation for kindergarten enrollment, please contact your local school district.

    For more helpful information about Missouri Public Schools, sign up for our mailing list.

    The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services’ School Immunization Requirements

  • More Missouri Students Attending Full-Day Kindergarten

    Enrollment in full-day kindergarten has increased by more than 10% — from 85.6% to 95.7% — since 2006, according to the Missouri Top Ten by 20 Dashboard . This is great news for the state of Missouri.

    The fact that Missouri offers full-day kindergarten is a sign that Missouri is ahead of the national learning curve for the public education of young students. According to the Children’s Defense Fund, 94% of Missouri’s children attend full-day kindergarten, while only ten states and the District of Columbia require full-day kindergarten to be provided and publicly funded at all. Thirty-four states require at least half-day kindergarten, and six have no requirement at all for public kindergarten programs.

    Is Full-Day Kindergarten Overrated?
    Research shows that students who attend full-day kindergarten programs build stronger academic foundations that their peers who attend part-day programs or don’t attend kindergarten.

    Strategies for Children cites research that students who attend full-day kindergarten programs learn more in reading and math and exhibit more independent learning, classroom involvement, and productivity in work with peers than children who are enrolled in half-day kindergarten programs

    At-risk and low-income students, especially, benefit from full-time kindergarten instruction.

    A study of 17,600 Philadelphia students found not only that low-income students performed better in full-day than half-day kindergarten, but that school districts saved a substantial sum of money in reduced retention rates of those full-time kindergarten students in the first, second and third grades. 

    Missouri has a 22% child poverty rate and 34% of Missouri’s children live in single parent families. 146,000 Missourians receive WIC (Women, Infants and Children supplemental nutrition program) support, and nearly half a million adults and children in Missouri receive welfare

    When so many of Missouri’s students and families are low-income, Missouri’s record high enrollment in full-day kindergarten is especially meaningful. We are setting the next generation of students up for academic — and life – success.

    Is your child or a child in your care nearing kindergarten age? Enrollment in Missouri’s full-time kindergarten programs is free in most districts. Contact your local public school district to find out how to enroll your child.

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