As we approach the new school year, many parents are in the middle of getting kids ready to go back to school. During this transition time, it is easy to focus on the traditions of getting new school clothes, packing school lunches and helping sleep schedules get back on track. But in the midst of all the back-to-school preparations, it’s important to remember that getting ready for school also involves making sure our kids’ academic skills are ready for another year of learning. In the stress of the season, it can be easy to forget that helping our kids get ready to learn isn’t just something we do before they start school — it’s something that we can do from the time our kids are born.

A growing body of academic research emphasizes the importance of a child’s first three years of life in terms of physical and mental development. By reading to infants and engaging in other learning activities with children ages 0-3, parents can help their kids prepare for lifelong learning. With this research in mind, United Way’s EveryDay Learners initiative announces a new focus on empowering parents with the resources and support they need to help their children learn during those crucial first years.

In many cases, these resources will consist of information that helps parents promote learning from their child’s earliest years. For example, many parents don’t know that there are simple things they can do every day to help their infants and toddlers learn. These actions don’t take much time or effort, but they have significant impact on young children’s development. Incorporating these activities into your family’s regular schedule can help you make sure your children are learning and growing in healthy, happy ways.

For example, United Way’s EveryDay Learners director, Stephanie Anderson, says that doing these simple things can help parents connect with and teach their children daily:

  1. Imitate your babies’ sounds when they babble.
  2. Point at things as you talk to your babies.
  3. Play stop and go games or sing soft and loud songs to help your children build self-regulation.
  4. Let your children talk, and then respond to them.
  5. Hold and love your children!

As you may have noticed, each of these activities also helps parents bond with their children. Strong emotional relationships help create environments where children feel safe to learn and to try new things. By engaging in these types of activities with your younger children, you will help equip them with the tools they need to learn throughout their lives — not just for the start of a new school year.

This new focus on supporting our earliest learners does not mean that existing EveryDay Learners efforts will stop. Classroom tutors and book sponsorships will continue to be vital elements of supporting early learning in our community. This new focus does mean that we will be adding additional information and resources to the services we currently offer. If we as a community really focus on supporting parents and young children, we will see great rewards in the years and decades to come.

To learn more about EveryDay Learners and how to get involved, please call 801-374-2588.