Revised Standards Provide Guidance for Early Childhood Field

This month marks one year since the start of the Think Small blog. To celebrate, we’re using January to highlight information and initiatives from Think Small and our partners about infants and toddlers and their caregivers in Minnesota. This post is part of our series on children 0-3.

Long before they can talk, children are observing, experimenting, and figuring out their world. Each child moves at his or her own pace, but there are predictable, observable milestones across many developmental domains. Early childhood professionals can support healthy child development in their programs. Continue reading Revised Standards Provide Guidance for Early Childhood Field

Using LENA to Help Close the Word Gap

By: Gerri Fisher

This month marks one year since the start of the Think Small blog. To celebrate, we’re using January to highlight information and initiatives from Think Small and our partners about infants and toddlers and their caregivers in Minnesota. This post is part of our series on children 0-3.

Children participating in LENA Start

By the age of three, it is estimated that low-income children have heard 30 million fewer words than those from higher-income families. We see, in fact, a difference in how many words a child knows as early as eighteen months of age. This discrepancy in the number of words heard is referred to as the word gap, and it contributes to low-income children being less school ready than their more affluent peers. In 2016, utilizing funds from the Bush and Target Foundations, Think Small introduced a new initiative to address the word gap. The initiative, called LENA Start, is a laser-focused language intervention for those first three critical years of life. Continue reading Using LENA to Help Close the Word Gap

Brain Development in Infants and Toddlers

90% of brain development occurs by age 5.

80% of the brain is developed by age 3.

Ages 0-3 are an important time for brain development.

These eye-catching statements sound impressive but can be confusing and misleading. Learning certainly continues after age five, and the window for development doesn’t close at Kindergarten. However, we know that interactions in the first few years of life are important to a child’s future. A parent’s relationship with their young child shapes the healthy development of their brain and body.  But what is the role of brain development? And how can caregivers support children 0-3 to have a great start? Continue reading Brain Development in Infants and Toddlers

Closing Opportunity Gaps to Shrink Achievement Gaps

By: Maya Fanjul-Debnam

The opportunity gap is one of the biggest obstacles our education system faces today.

As highlighted in a Minnpost op-ed written by Think Small President, Barbara Yates:

“Our achievement gaps start as opportunity gaps, where children do not have access to the opportunities they need to flourish and reach their full potential.”

Continue reading Closing Opportunity Gaps to Shrink Achievement Gaps

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

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

County by County, Here’s What Child Care Looks Like Across Minnesota

preschool-girl-learning-1251296We must close gaps first by supporting early learning programs already in place to reach our most at risk children. Child Care is an essential and large piece of this puzzle, providing quality early learning opportunities across Minnesota that focus on getting the whole child ready to succeed.

Continue reading County by County, Here’s What Child Care Looks Like Across Minnesota

Quality of Early Childhood Programs Improving with Parent Aware

Children attending a Parent Aware rated program are making significant gains in the skills they need to succeed in kindergarten, according to a third party evaluation of the Minnesota programs.

PA Eval Image

Continue reading Quality of Early Childhood Programs Improving with Parent Aware