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Everything listed under: Preschool

  • 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.

  • Education a Prominent Theme During Missouri State of State Address

    Education was a prominent theme in Governor Nixon’s State of the State Address on January 21st. “Education is the great equalizer,” said the Governor in his speech. “Because when every child has a quality education, every child has the opportunity to succeed.”

    The Governor listed increased funding, heightened academic expectations, and stricter accountability measures as evidence of the state’s legislative progress for education. He made indirect reference to #MoNoOn3; the statewide effort to defeat Missouri Amendment 3, which would have used standardized test scores to evaluate public school teachers.

    Academically, he cited improved math and reading scores and progress in troubled school districts as ways that Missouri’s schools are “rising to the challenge”. He also highlighted several specific communities across the state that have made academic progress or have supported public educators.

    Governor Nixon was honest, however, that Missouri’s public education system isn’t where it needs to be. In order to give kids, “the best”, Governor Nixon proposed the following funding and legislative changes in 2015:

    · An $11 million increase to existing preschool budgets
    · A proposed record level of funding for K-12 education
    · An additional $150 million for public schools
    · A “clean fix” to the debate over Missouri’s school transfer law
    · Start-up grants to extend Project Lead the Way (a STEM education program) to 350 more Missouri elementary schools
    · An additional $25 million for Missouri higher education
    · Upgrading higher education facilities, especially those in STEM programs

    You can read the full text of Governor Nixon’s January 21st State of the State Address here.

    As the 98th General Assembly proceeds, education legislation and funding will be ongoing subjects of discussion and debate. Part of our mission at Missouri Parent is to provide you with accurate and timely information on education funding and legislative issues that impact public education, so we’ll continue to share relevant policy updates throughout this legislative session.

    Visit Missouri Parent News or connect with us on Facebook and Twitter for daily updates about K-12 public school education, funding, and policy in the State of Missouri as we continue to post regular updates from the 98th General Assembly.

  • 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.

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


    What if we told you that by the time your baby was just nine months old, researchers would be able to see signs of a growing achievement gap between your son or daughter and his or her peers? That’s exactly what the research says.

    The Office of Early and Extended Learning tells us that:

    “Although evidence of the achievement gap can be identified among children as young as 9 months of age, recent research indicates most, if not all, of the achievement gap found at age 5 (at school entry) and at age 8 could be eliminated by an intensive two-year early childhood program for infants and toddlers.” (source)

    Studies like these are evidence that early childhood education is important for Missouri’s children from birth through kindergarten. Kids who receive a good start in life are more likely to finish high school, score well on tests, and have positive attitudes about school. They’re also less like to suffer from substance abuse or to become criminals as adults. (source)

    There are dozens of great programs in Missouri that help at-risk children, and many of those organizations are partners in a statewide early childhood education awareness campaign called Now for Later. These inter-agency partnerships are an important piece of the puzzle for improving early childhood education in Missouri.

    According to Now for Later, “it’s bigger than just one agency or program. We must come together to create a coordinated system to invest in our children Now for Later.” (source)

    Learn More: Download the Missouri Now for Later Brochure

    The role of early childhood education isn’t relegated exclusively to teachers. Family members (including grandparents), community members, clergy, neighbors, and childcare providers are just a few people who can make small changes that could make a big difference for Missouri’s youngest learners.

    The Now for Later campaign brings early childhood education resources and family support organizations together to help make sure Missouri’s children receive the educational foundation they need.

    Bookmark the Missouri Parent Blog and follows us on Facebook and Twitter to stay up-to-date on the importance of early childhood education programs and resources in Missouri

    Learn More About Early Childhood Education in Missouri:
    The Missouri 10 by 20 Initiative
    Preparing Your Child for Kindergarten in Missouri
    Nixon Spells Out Plan to Boost Preschool Funding


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