A mind-boggling fact: During the first years of a child’s life, his or her brain will form more than 700 neural connections every second. Acknowledging that every moment in a young child’s life can be an opportunity to make the most of his or her early brain development, the Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) provides ideas to help families learn and grow together, as well as resources for finding early education and care programs in their community.
You can support learning by reading with your child, immersing your child in enriching environments, and considering early education options in Massachusetts.
The Benefits of Early Education
Helping children learn during their earliest years – from birth to their entry into kindergarten — can give them advantages that will brighten their futures. According to The Economics of Early Childhood Investments, a briefing from the Executive Office of the President of the United States (EOP), early education is crucial for several reasons:
- This type of learning produces benefits that will surface throughout the child’s life for them and those around them;
- Young children’s brains are more adaptable and benefit more from positive influences; and
- The skills learned at a young age help children understand more advanced concepts as they grow.
According to EEC, parents can make any moment a brain building moment — even everyday activities like grocery shopping, taking a walk, riding your bike, driving, and riding the bus or train can become educational. Encourage your child to count the pieces of fruit you’re adding to the shopping cart or name the letters on street signs.
Have Fun Reading with Your Child
One of the best ways to help children develop is to grab a book and read with them. According to the Massachusetts Family Literacy Consortium (MFLC), parents act as reading models for their children and contribute to children’s attitudes toward education. Investing time in reading will help children improve other cognitive abilities. EEC suggests a number of ways to help your child build brains by reading.
- If your child has a favorite book, read it as many times as he or she would like.
- Explore the book and talk about it — don’t just read it.
- Ask your child questions about the pictures in the book.
- Relate stories to your child’s own experiences whenever possible.
Immerse Your Child in Learning-Rich Environments
The learning process isn’t just about “one, two, threes” and “A, B, Cs” — exploring their senses and the world around them helps children develop spatial awareness, motor skills, and healthy habits. EEC encourages families to look for brain building zones around Massachusetts using its resource locator, but some examples of engaging environments include:
- Children’s museums;
- Libraries; and
- Family resource centers.
Consider Early Education and Care Programs
EEC’s early education and care resources aid parents in finding the right program for their child’s and their family’s needs.
- A Variety of Care — Parents can choose from multiple types of early education and care programs, which can range from family child care to after-school and out-of-school-time programs.
- Options Near You — EEC has many options to help parents find early education and care programs in their community. The Executive Office of Education (EDU) provides a child care resource and referral search tool so residents can learn about options nearby.
Use EEC’s parent engagement and family support tools and early care resources to make learning fun for your child.
What are your child’s favorite learning activities? Comment below or tweet us at @MassGov.
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