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the crucial first five years {First 5 California}

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of First 5 California via Burst Media. The opinions and text are all mine.

I’m a homeschooler, so I am very well aware of the importance of early learning. Those first 5 years are the most critical in any child’s life for development, growth and learning potential. 90% of the brain has developed by that 5th birthday — not to say the push stops there — but parents need to be aware of this early time crunch. First 5 California is raising awareness with powerful information, available to everyone.

Children are born with almost all the neurons they will ever have. What changes is the wiring that grows based on experience and activity. As cells signal to one another, they lay down permanent connections – this is the essential wiring for learning and functioning. The frequented neural pathways become stronger, while the random, less-used pathways disintegrate. This action is much like weeding unnecessary plants from a garden.

I’ve always believed in speaking to my children like they are adults… none of this baby talk nonsense. Turns out, that is a very good way to ensure a wide vocabulary range when they are older. Reading a variety of books to them from day one is an easy way to showcase words that may not come up in conversation. I feel my 1 year old has a great advantage over my 7 year old, as he sits in on the reading of big girl books. I just began reading The Lightning Thief to my daughter, a grade 6+ reading level book. Her vocabulary has already improved and I’m excited to know Gabriel (1) is hearing a lot of the words as well.

Reading to a baby-toddler isn’t going to feel rewarding right away. They won’t pay 100% attention, they will wander around, babble over you, but know that those words are being heard, at least some of them. For a more captive audience, throw them in the stroller and take a walk. Tell a story as you stroll! Another great way to engage is to sing. My 13 month old has always responded very well to me singing, hanging on every word and now tries to mimic. Even if you think your singing sounds terrible, know that your baby thinks it is the most beautiful sound! Two birds, one stone: get a little exercise and sing while you stroll!

Music is very much a language that knows no boundaries. It transcends country borders and language barriers. I’ve read many studies about how music affects so many parts of the brain. When you listen to music your brain tries to decipher things like rhythm, pitch, melody, lyrics AND attaches to memories and happiness. Talk about lighting up the brain! Get up and dance with your kids — get silly and put emphasis on the beat, on the different notes and speeds. Bust out a musical instrument you play and prepare for them to be amazed! Their brain will be forming important connections that will impact their lives forever.

We all want our children to flourish and achieve great things. We have high hopes and dream big for them. Ensure their success by doing your part, as the parent is the most important teacher a child can ever have. Start early. Start right away!

First 5 California is an amazing parent outreach and education program available to all families. On the website, parents will find important messaging and activity ideas. For my 13 month old, I took First 5 CA’s advice and made a soft obstacle course. What a fun and engaging activity that my baby absolutely loved. I mean, his big sister is already making forts daily, why not just add a couple obstacles? Anything to get those synapses firing! You don’t need expensive “educational” toys, just use what you have… a bed quit, a bolster and some toys can work wonders.

Studies have shown that babies who experience more of these types of interactions ultimately possess larger vocabularies, do better in school, are more likely to graduate high school and even have a more financially successful future. The impact is huge, and the power lies in your hands – not in their genes.

Parents-to-be, moms of kids 0-5, grandparents, check out the First 5 CA website for information and ideas on all topics from health to education. Find events and services you need in your area as well! Keep in the know by liking First 5 CA on Facebook and following on Twitter. #talksingread

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of First 5 California via Burst Media. The opinions and text are all mine.

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  1. March 19, 2014 at 2:22 pm — Reply

    i believe if you start them early, it stays with you forever

  2. March 19, 2014 at 6:41 pm — Reply

    This sounds like an amazing program! We have something similar in Missouri and it’s been a huge resource for my kids. I think you’ve convinced me to start reading some chapter books to my 6 year old.

  3. March 19, 2014 at 7:07 pm — Reply

    So glad I was reading to my kids and singing songs since they were babies. Thanks for raising awareness on this important topic.

  4. March 19, 2014 at 7:50 pm — Reply

    I’m right there with you on the baby talk – I NEVER used it with my daughter and her speech has always been incredible.

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