Small Talks: How Early Conversations Impact a Child’s Life

Small Talks features leaders who will share key insights on early childhood education and discuss innovative solutions to early learning issues in Minnesota.

Talk to Me: How Early Conversations Impact a Child’s Life was the topic of the first Think Small Small Talks event which took place August 15, 2017, at the University of Minnesota’s Robert J. Jones Urban Research and Outreach-Engagement Center in Minneapolis.  The panel presentation and discussion focused on closing the word gap in Minnesota through simple practices, strategic partnerships, and innovative research.

Scott McConnell, Educational Psychology professor at the University of Minnesota was one of the presenters.  His research focuses primarily on preschool-aged children, and the skills and competencies that will enable them to learn and participate in school and other settings.  His work includes implementation and evaluation of LENA Start, a program which focuses on increasing interactive talk with children because it has been proven to be a key factor in early brain development.

“Families talk more, kids talk more.  Families talk less, kids talk less,” McConnell said.

Click below to watch some video highlights from the first Small Talks event.

Continue reading Small Talks: How Early Conversations Impact a Child’s Life

Early Education Spotlight: Stepping Stones Childcare Learning Center, Inc

By: Marie Huey

Early Education Spotlight is an ongoing series that showcases great work happening in child care and preschool settings across Minnesota. From innovative early learning programs to parent perspectives on what works, check out the Early Education Spotlight for unique examples of Minnesota’s early learning successes.

Serena Bowman (Left) and Christel Cartie, Co-Owners and Directors of Stepping Stones

Parents often ask sisters Serena Bowman and Christel Cartie, “Are you a preschool program?” The sisters confidently respond, “Yes.” Because Stepping Stones Childcare Learning Center, Inc is a high-quality, Four Star Parent Aware rated program where parents can be assured that their children receive the enrichment and educational opportunities they need to be school and life ready.

When Serena and Christel combined their entrepreneurial spirit with their passion for making a difference for children, the result was Stepping Stones. They noticed that many families in the area needed care for their children, and many specifically wanted a place that offered high-quality early education options. With a goal of providing a unique experience and taking high-quality care and education to the next level, they opened a child care center in 2008. That original Aitkin location no longer exists, but they now have three centers: in Brainerd, Baxter, and Pequot Lakes. Continue reading Early Education Spotlight: Stepping Stones Childcare Learning Center, Inc

The Triple Bottom Line of Child Care

The Policies in Play series takes a closer look at the recently passed state legislative policies that affect early care and education. We work with partners to find out what these policies look like in action and how they impact Minnesota children and families.

By: Cisa Keller, Senior Vice President of Early Childhood Quality Development at Think Small

Quality child care is essential to the state’s economic viability.  Every Minnesotan is touched by child care, whether directly or indirectly.  Child care allows families to go to work, supports children in their development as tomorrow’s workforce, and is a network of small businesses that span all geographical, economic and cultural communities in Minnesota.  Child care is a foundational element that creates the space for our state’s economy to thrive. At Think Small we believe that by prioritizing investments in both access to high quality and capacity building of the sector, we will be able to strengthen child care business and increase availability for Minnesota’s young families.  In doing so we will also achieve a triple bottom line:

  1. supporting the economy by boosting the business of child care,
  2. supporting employment for parents and families, and
  3. supporting young children by preparing them for success in kindergarten and beyond.

Continue reading The Triple Bottom Line of Child Care

Policy Hour: Power to the Profession Initiative

Policy Hour presenters were MnAEYC-MnSACA’s Kathleen O’Donnell and Sara Benzkofer.

Early education is in the spotlight now. That was the message from Kathleen O’Donnnell, Executive Director, and Sara Benzkofer, Director of Policy and Communications, of MnAEYC-MnSACA. The April Policy Hour presenters are from the state affiliate of the National Association of the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). They talked about the Power to the Profession Initiative out of NAEYC and how the recent attention to early childhood development and education presents both challenges and opportunities to support and advance the profession. Continue reading Policy Hour: Power to the Profession Initiative

Early Education Spotlight: Little Angels Child Care

By: Marie Huey

Early Education Spotlight is an ongoing series that showcases great work happening in child care and preschool settings across Minnesota. From innovative early learning programs to parent perspectives on what works, check out the Early Education Spotlight for unique examples of Minnesota’s early learning successes.

Lisa Brown

Child care professional Lisa Brown knows how much planning is needed to take care of 12 kids at one time. Fortunately, organization is something she’s good at, and it has certainly benefited her and the children she cares for.  After feeling unsatisfied with the child care options for her children, Lisa decided to open her own Family Child Care program, Little Angels Child Care. Guided by her high standards, love of children and education, Lisa has created a Three Star Parent Aware Rated program that supports children socially and cognitively.

Continue reading Early Education Spotlight: Little Angels Child Care

Early Education Spotlight: Little World of Angels

By: Marie Huey

Early Education Spotlight is an ongoing series that showcases great work happening in child care and preschool settings across Minnesota. From innovative early learning programs to parent perspectives on what works, check out the Early Education Spotlight for unique examples of Minnesota’s early learning successes.

“If we don’t talk to them, they aren’t going to learn.”

Elisa reads to children in her program.

This statement from Maria “Elisa” Vega could easily be the motto of her bilingual program. Her licensed family child care, Little World of Angels, is full of children learning through conversation and play. Kids in her program come from a mix of English-speaking and Spanish-speaking families. When they come to Elisa, they sing, read stories, and interact with each other in both English and Spanish.

Continue reading Early Education Spotlight: Little World of Angels

Policy Hour: Reports Propose Solutions for Early Learning in Minnesota

Legislative Task Force on Child Care Access and Affordability

Senator Melissa Wiklund, DFL-Bloomington, was one of the presenters at the February Policy Hour organized by Minnesota’s Future and hosted by Think Small. Sen. Wiklund talked about a report by the Legislative Task Force on Child Care Access and Affordability.

Senator Wiklund presents at February Policy Hour.

Before creating the report, she explained that the committee met to discuss various issues around child care. They learned about the child care shortage in Greater Minnesota and heard from the Department of Human Services regarding changes to federal law that impact Minnesota’s Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP). They also heard from organization leaders, parents, and providers who shared their thoughts on what works and does not work for child care in Minnesota. Continue reading Policy Hour: Reports Propose Solutions for Early Learning in Minnesota

Baby Steps To STEM

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.

Jean Barbre, EdD

Many people think science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education begins in high school or, at best, in elementary school. In reality, even infants are learning about STEM every day. Innately curious, infants, toddlers, and twos love to explore, investigate, and discover—making the earliest years a perfect time to begin teaching the foundations of STEM. Jean Barbre’s upcoming book Baby Steps to STEM: Infant and Toddler Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math Activities, supplies caregivers with every day, play-based, developmentally appropriate STEM activities for infants, toddlers, and twos. Continue reading Baby Steps To STEM

Minnesota Early Learning Organizations Present Policy Agendas at January Policy Hour

The 2017 Minnesota Legislative Session is underway! January Policy Hour brought us up to speed on the policy priorities of the organizations in the Minnesota’s Future coalition and the Voices and Choices for Children Coalition. Below is a brief overview of each organization’s platform, along with links to more in-depth explanations where available. Continue reading Minnesota Early Learning Organizations Present Policy Agendas at January Policy Hour

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