Early Education Spotlight: Kris Larson’s Family Child Care

By: Marie Huey

Early Education Spotlight is an ongoing series that showcases the great work happening in quality child care and preschool settings across Minnesota.

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Children play and learn in Larson’s outdoor garden.

Kris Larson’s Family Child Care program in White Bear Lake takes full advantage of learning opportunities in the great outdoors. The children read, eat, and do art projects outside whenever possible. They thrive in the outdoors, and it gives them the space they need to move their bodies and explore. And this year, their outdoor curriculum received a big bump. Continue reading Early Education Spotlight: Kris Larson’s Family Child Care

Word Pedometers Brought to Minneapolis to Help Close Word Gap

By: Maya Fanjul-Debnam

Minnesota is heralding in an innovative program to help close the word gap. The word gap–a 30 million word deficit between children from low income families and their more well-off peers– is evident by age 3. In order for it to be reversed, children need both parents and caregivers to speak, sing and read to them often.

This new approach to early literacy, originated by the LENA Research Foundation, is designed to make a tangible change to those stats by encouraging parents to be more intentional about building vocabulary-enhancing interactions into their parenting.  Continue reading Word Pedometers Brought to Minneapolis to Help Close Word Gap

Voters Agree: Early Education is a Top Priority

By: Maya Fanjul-Debnam

In this current political climate, tensions are running high between parties, and it appears as if there’s nothing we can agree on. Nothing that is, except early care and education.

A recent national poll conducted by the First Five Years Fund found that 90 percent of voters agree that Congress and the next president should work to make quality early education accessible to low and middle-income families. As highlighted in the First Five Years Fund study:

“There is overwhelming support—with little opposition—for a federal plan that helps states and local communities provide better access to quality early childhood education. Nearly three quarters of the electorate support this plan: 73% favor and only 24% oppose. 54% of Republicans, 70% of Independents, 91% of Democrats voice support. A majority of key swing voter groups also favor investing more in early childhood education from birth to age five.”

Continue reading Voters Agree: Early Education is a Top Priority

Early Education Spotlight: Aldrich Memorial Nursery School

By: Marie Huey

Early Education Spotlight is an ongoing series that showcases the great work happening in high-quality early learning settings across Minnesota. The first installment features Aldrich Memorial Nursery School and its director, Kevin Ewing.

Director Kevin Ewing brings a unique perspective to his position as Director of Aldrich Memorial Nursery School in Rochester, Minnesota. In past roles as both a teacher and principal for Rochester Public Schools, he saw the importance of providing children with a good social and educational foundation to prepare them for success at school. Through this lens, Ewing operates Aldrich, a non-profit preschool serving children ages two to five. It started in 1944 as a program connected with the Mayo Clinic in a downtown building near the hospital, but it now operates independently. Continue reading Early Education Spotlight: Aldrich Memorial Nursery School

Leaders in Early Learning Bring Concerns to MN House Committee on Child Care

Dianne Testifies at Select CommittteeThe Minnesota House Select Committee on Affordable Child Care held a hearing on July 19 at the Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board office to hear from the community on child care related issues. Committee chair Rep Mary Franson, R-Alexandria, was joined by other house members Rep Joe Mullery, DFL-Minneapolis, Rep John Persell, DFL-Bemidji, and Rep Peggy Flanagan, DFL-St. Louis Park. Many people shared their stories and concerns from the field at the meeting.

Continue reading Leaders in Early Learning Bring Concerns to MN House Committee on Child Care

Never Give Up on the Children, Regardless of How Hard it Can Get

There is much to mourn over recent weeks, with terrible acts of violence in Louisiana, Texas, and our very own home Minnesota. Current events expose great rifts in our communities, including many communities we work with every day. Think Small wants the families, children and communities we serve to know that we stand with them during this extremely difficult time.

No one, regardless of the color of their skin or where they work, should live with the violence, hardships, or challenges we see flashed across our TV screens at night and in news reports in the morning. A traumatic event, such as watching your father being killed in front of you, can change the trajectory of a child’s whole life. And events like this have long lasting effects on families and communities.

Continue reading Never Give Up on the Children, Regardless of How Hard it Can Get

Poverty’s Immense Impact on Brain Development During Childhood Explored

By: Maya Fanjul-Debnam

LEL FCC 2011More than 16 million children in the United States – 22% of all children – live in families with incomes below the federal poverty level, $23,550 a year for a family of four.

Children living in poverty are often exposed to a cluster of circumstances that affect their brain development. A study conducted by the University of Wisconsin Madison found that children from low-income families experience less cognitive stimulation, stressful living conditions and harsher parenting, which all affect brain growth and development.

Continue reading Poverty’s Immense Impact on Brain Development During Childhood Explored

Learning Starts at Birth: Implications for a Lifetime

By: Maya Fanjul-Debnam

LEL0212FCCFrom the moment they are born, children are learning from their surroundings. Everything from brain growth to approaches to life are shaped by what does—or does not–happen in their first months and years of life.

As highlighted in a study from the Ounce:

“Early experiences that are nurturing, active, and challenging actually thicken the cortex of an infant’s brain, creating a brain with more extensive and sophisticated neuron structures that
determine intelligence and behavior.”

Continue reading Learning Starts at Birth: Implications for a Lifetime

#TourDeNice and A Journey for Early Learning

Marie Riding 7By: Marie Huey

As a passionate advocate for the importance of early learning, I’m always interested in ways to support the cause. When I heard about an opportunity combining fitness, fun, and strategy, I signed right up and began an intense journey. A journey in the name of early learning.

The Challenge: The first ever #TourDeNice. Eleven nonprofit cyclists start and finish at Gold Medal Park in downtown Minneapolis, competing to see who can visit the most Nice Ride stations between 9 a.m. and 11 a.m on July 9, 2016.

Continue reading #TourDeNice and A Journey for Early Learning

Minneapolis Launches “Talking is Teaching” Campaign to Close Word Gap

By Maya Fanjul-Debnam

By age four, children from low-income families hear 30 million fewer words than their more well-off peers, setting them on very different trajectories for early literacy. The disparity is jarring, and in order to combat it, Minneapolis launched a language development program called ‘Talking is Teaching.’

The campaign is meant to encourage parents to talk, sing and read to their children every day. It sounds simple, but this helps strengthen language skills at a crucial time in a child’s life. Studies show that the most critical time for brain development is from birth to age three. The first three years of life are when all of the neuron connections are occurring, something that can’t happen without stimulation from a relationship-based encounter.

Continue reading Minneapolis Launches “Talking is Teaching” Campaign to Close Word Gap