The first five years of a child’s life creates the foundation for children to accomplish critical developmental growth that sets the stage for later school success. From the first day of life to the first day of kindergarten, children learn, change, and grow at an alarming pace. It is during these first years that the brain undergoes its most dramatic growth.
What we put in today affects what happens tomorrow. Children’s language blossoms, motor abilities are set, thinking becomes complex, and social and emotional development affects how children learn and relate to others.
All children are wired for learning. The developmental tasks during the first five years include mastery of essential building blocks for learning to succeed in school, the ability to get along with other children, make friends, become engaged in social groups, and develop the capacity to manage powerful emotions. But nothing is more critical than how the brain is attuned to environmental inputs that shape its emerging architecture.
All children learn, change, and grow at different rates. Ramey & Ramey (1999) state all children should experience the following seven guiding essentials daily to enhance their development to be school ready:
- Encourage exploration with all the senses, in familiar and new places, with other and alone, safely and with joy.
- Mentor in basic skills, showing the whats and whens, the ins and outs of how thing and people work.
- Celebrate developmental advances, for learning new skills, little and bid, and for becoming a unique individual.
- Rehearse and extend new skills, showing your baby how to practice again and again, in the same and different ways, with new people and new things.
- Protect from inappropriate disapproval, teasing, neglect, or punishments.
- Communicate richly and responsively with sounds, songs, gestures, and words; bring your baby into the wonderful world of language and its many uses.
- Guide and limit behavior to keep your child safe and to teach what’s acceptable, and what’s not – the rules of being a cooperative, responsive, and caring person.