I used to teach third grade. I got about halfway through my teacher certification program before dropping out because I realized that as much as there is to be gained from a solid elementary education, the REAL power for change is in early parenting. To be exact, it's in the first five years of a child's life.
I wanted to make sure that I would be there to focus intensely on my own children, to talk and read and sing to them as much as possible.
These little things are what make a huge difference in their lives from the very beginning.
Ninety percent of a child's brain is formed in the first five years of life. That's a powerful, sobering statistic. Honestly, it scares the pants off of me while simultaneously motivating me to get out there with my young children and soak in every single moment that this life has to offer them.
It's for this reason that I am intensely involved in their lives, and I involve them in my own. We weave essential childhood curriculum into everything, everywhere.
It's this grand and this simple: I talk to them. I sing to them. We read together every night.
The First Five Years are Critical
People look at me like I'm crazy when I throw my baby on my back and head to Disneyland, when I pack up my toddler for New Orleans or when my newly-formed family sporadically adds a flock of backyard chickens to our brood. I'm not telling other parents they need to do these things, but you should make an active effort to be with your children, involve them and speak to them. These actions are part of something bigger. They're laying down permanent pathways for discovery.
Every experience, big or little, has an impact. Every word I say to them matters and becomes part of their internal mantra throughout life.
California has an incredible program called First 5 CA that encourages parents to engage their children in #talkreadsing activities in their first five years to help develop vocabulary.
Now in its 15th year, the program has been hugely instrumental in the development of my own young children by offering activities, free downloads and services in my area. Even for parents located outside of the “golden state,” it supplies helpful resources and a much-needed reminder that early childhood education doesn't require a bunch of expensive books and toys and tools. It just takes you.
The answer is as simple as talking, reading and singing. Getting down to your child's level, and being there for them through every stage. If you're looking for help with the first five years, check out some of their resources on their website and on Facebook and Twitter.
How do YOU support children in their first five years?
This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of First 5 California via Burst Media. The opinions and text are all mine.