Did you know that getting an early start on your child’s education before the age of five can affect how they learn in later years? Children under the age of five form as many as 700 neural connections per second. This means that most of their learning is shaped before they have even begun kindergarten. Your child is creating the pathways to learning while sitting at home as an infant or toddler. These early days of learning can be productive or unproductive depending on the amount of time and energy you spend with your kids helping them to learn new things. Children that participate in school or home-based learning before the age of five are more likely to show improved reading skills, math skills, stay in school longer, graduate from high school, and attend a four year college. They are less likely to drop out of school, repeat grades, and be placed in special education. By the age of 40 those children are 24% more likely to own a home, 18% more likely to be employed, 53% less likely to have multiple arrests, and are more likely to earn more in their lifetime.
So what can you do to help your child in this first five years of life? There are many ways to help your child. Spend time with them reading everyday. Reading aloud with your child can improve their listening skills, help them with their cognitive reasoning skills, their letter and sound tracking skills, and help them become more interested in reading. Play games with your child, hide-and seek, peek-a-boo, and games that involve stacking or building help to create pathways in the brain that eventually lead to cognitive reasoning and gross and fine motor skills. Singing songs is an important way for young children to learn, repetitive sounds and rhythm aid in fast learning.
Toddlers can learn in their daily games. Color sorting and shape sorting are both fun games that are also educational. Counting can take on many different forms. Number your hopscotch squares and count with your child as you jump. Count toys as you pull them out to play each day, count them as you put them away. Have your toddler play an I Spy game. Try to spy something that starts with the letter A, the color blue, or the star shape. Look in the house, on your walk, at the grocery store while you shop. Incorporate your activities with your daily routine. Above all talk to your child. Ask them questions, let them ask you questions. Keep up a constant conversation about the things around you and what you are doing. Narrating your daily activities and touts on the things around you helps your child to do them same. Monkey-see-monkey-do, or emulation, is the easiest way for a child to learn.
Learning doesn’t have to be difficult. You do not need to carve out extra time in your busy day with your child. Learning can be as simple as spending time with your child working together and talking. So keep up that conversation and don’t forget to count!