Posts Tagged ‘Next Generation’


The Benefits of Reading Aloud to Children

Reading aloud to children from birth has many benefits for both parents and children—and can be great fun!  No matter how young, children can learn a lot when they are read to, and benefit a great deal from the cuddling and bonding that accompanies a reading session. In addition, the act of reading aloud to children is highly beneficial to both their vocabulary growth and in preparing them for school later on.

Even from birth, children are absorbing language by listening to their parents and caregivers talk, read and sing to them and others.  When parents and caregivers read to their children, they help instill a love of learning and language in their children that helps build self-esteem, confidence and curiosity. According to research by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), reading has been found to be the “single most important skill” for a productive life.

Unfortunately, according to Read Aloud 15 MINUTES, only 48% of young children in the United States are read to each day. And studies have shown that as many as 10 million children struggle with basic reading in school.

Parents and caregivers can inspire a love of books in their young children by reading books together every day, in any language. And it doesn’t matter how young the child is; even newborn babies show interest and excitement when their parents read simple books to them as they cuddle or nurse them, or when parents describe the pictures in a book during a short play session. No matter the book—and no matter the age—children will learn to love reading if it means spending more time with loved ones.


Resources for Sharing:


This beautifully illustrated infographic has great info on reading aloud to children, and why it matters. >><

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From Too Small to Fail: A Little Creativity For the Holidays

The holiday season is upon us, and so we’re thinking about the things that families can do together to inspire creativity. Whether preparing hand-made gifts for loved ones or participating in family holiday traditions, young children can express their creativity in different ways that encourage the signature trademarks of a creative mind—adaptability, independent thinking and imagination.

Creativity is a trait that we usually associate with children. However, researchers have found that environment plays an important role in influencing creativity, and early experiences can greatly encourage—or discourage—a child’s creative thinking. A young child who has been given ample time to draw, make crafts, explore their environment and engage in fantasy play often shows greater creativity in the school years. Parents can support their children’s creative thinking from infancy by encouraging babies to explore their environments and offering safe items for play that can be used in different ways.

With that in mind, this week we thought it would be fun to give you a run-down of creative ideas that parents and caregivers can undertake with their little ones—from babies to toddlers! By offering positive reinforcement that encourages their children’s imaginations, parents and caregivers can help their children develop flexible thinking that will boost their early learning.

  • If you’ve run out of wrapping paper, this neat little DIY recipe is fun for both kids and adults. Great for young toddlers who may REALLY enjoy driving their toy trucks over non-toxic paint and paper.
  • Three seasonal recipes that will help foster creativity in toddlers!
  • And 50 creative play ideas for any time of the year can be found here!
  • From baby dance parties to learning math with play dough, the ideas in this blog post should get your creative juices flowing.
  • Finally, remember Silly Putty? You can recruit your little one to make your own version here. Then, copy newspaper print or roll it up into a ball and bounce it around (*not recommended for children who put toys or other items in their mouths).

Holiday Special

As the holidays draw near, we’re asking you to share your favorite holiday traditions and moments involving quality time with the kids in your life, whether it’s reading books together, singing holiday songs, or simply spending quiet family time.

Starting Monday, December 22, use #SmallTraditions on Facebook or Twitter to share your most treasured moments. Don’t forget a photo! We will share our favorites, too.

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Washington, DC
Press Release

At White House Early Learning Summit, Partners Commit to Reaching Millions of Hispanic Families with Information, Tools and Resources to Promote Early Brain Development, Strengthen Early Literacy and Early Numeracy, and Reinforce the Benefits of Bilingualism

WASHINGTON, DC— Univision Communications Inc., the leading media company serving Hispanic America, announced a new commitment in partnership with Too Small to Fail, a joint effort of the Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation and Next Generation, to help Hispanic parents and caregivers boost early brain development and improve early learning among Hispanic children from birth to age five.  The commitment, unveiled in conjunction with today’s White House Early Learning Summit, builds on “Pequeños y Valiosos” (Young and Valuable), the joint campaign launched by Univision and Too Small to Fail in February 2014 that has since reached millions of Hispanic families with messages, tools and resources.

Univision and Too Small to Fail will deepen and strengthen “Pequeños y Valiosos” in 2015 by:

  • Introducing new programming that integrates messages about early numeracy, the science behind early brain development and the benefits of bilingualism;
  • Expanding reach to be more inclusive of fathers, grandparents and other caregivers with more than 200 million media impressions reinforcing the importance of talking, reading and singing to young children and highlighting the benefits of bilingualism;
  • Providing no fewer than 100,000 Hispanic families with materials, tools, and resources on early literacy, early brain development and early numeracy, through digital content, a new interactive text messaging platform, mobile apps, and dozens of Univision-sponsored community events across the country;
  • Developing and implementing new tools to empower Hispanic parents to better navigate relationships with childcare providers and assess the quality of childcare centers; and,
  • Increasing the number of Hispanic families who have pledged to spend at least 15 minutes every day talking, reading or singing to their young children to over 35,000 families – representing at least 3.5 million hours pledged to these activities in 2015.

The expansion efforts will be greatly enhanced by a new collaboration between “Pequeños y Valiosos” and Vroom, an early learning initiative of the Bezos Family Foundation, to integrate Vroom’s positive brain-building messages, parent tools and technology into “Pequeños y Valiosos” in 2015.  Vroom and “Pequeños y Valiosos” will empower families with actionable information about the science of early childhood; provide timely prompts to encourage brain-building interactions between parents and children; and deliver tools to help parents develop early numeracy skills in toddlers, as well as tips about how to incorporate more talking, reading, and singing to their children into their daily lives.

Throughout 2015, “Pequeños y Valiosos” will continue to provide Hispanic parents and caregivers with the latest news and information about early brain development and early learning, through regular news features produced by Univision News, special programming and public service announcements produced by the award-winning Univision Contigo community empowerment team, as well as free online resources for parents from Univision and a range of community partners at www.univision.com/educacion.

“Pequeños y Valiosos” is part of Univision Contigo, Univision’s community empowerment platform that delivers programs to support the U.S. Hispanic community in the areas of education, health, prosperity and civic participation. The Heising-Simons Foundation and the David and Lucile Packard Foundation provided financial resources to support the production of the “Pequeños y Valiosos” campaign in 2014.

This is the second time this year that Too Small to Fail has worked with the White House and early childhood community leaders to support early learning and help close the “word gap” — or, the disparity in words that children living in lower-income families hear and learn compared to those in higher-income families. In October, Too Small to Fail joined the White House Office of Science & Technology Policy, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Urban Institute, U.S. Department of Education, and Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) to highlight the ways that communities across the country are tackling this serious but solvable challenge.



Talking is Teaching in Tulsa

In March 2014, Too Small to Fail announced its first local campaign in Tulsa, Oklahoma, titled “Talking is Teaching”. The campaign was developed in partnership with the George Kaiser Family Foundation, as well as several other community organizations, businesses and individuals that are dedicated to improving the lives of children and families in the local Tulsa community and elsewhere.

This November, our partners rolled out the campaign with the help of hundreds of faith-based leaders, pediatricians, business owners, nurses, and medical facility administrators. These trusted messengers will educate parents about early brain development, and share why talking, reading and singing with children every day from birth is important to their learning and well-being. They will also distribute thousands of materials like books and clothing designed to increase communication between parents and their young children.

During the next few weeks, we will highlight some of these trusted messengers’ efforts on our Facebook page and on our website. Voices like that of Dr. Amy Emerson, a dedicated pediatrician who is also a champion of early literacy programs like Reach Out and Read. In our Q&A with her, Dr. Emerson explains that the best way that parents and caregivers can promote and support early literacy and language development is by integrating it into a daily routine.

There is much to be done in Tulsa and in other communities across the United States to ensure that all children can experience healthy, balanced lives and are prepared to enter school. But we know that with the help of dedicated community leaders—and the efforts of parents and caregivers—more children can meet their potential and succeed in the 21st century.


Dr. Amy Emerson describes how pediatricians are prescribing reading books to children to improve brain development and benefit children’s well-being. >>

Using Every Day Moments to Inspire Early Math Skills

Early math, like early literacy, helps build a foundation for later learning that prepares children for success in school and beyond. Many studies have shown that children who are exposed to math early in life do better in school and apply the math skills they learn to other learning. In fact, it appears that math—more than any other subject area—is a better predictor of future academic success.

The great news is that parents and caregivers can inspire a love of math in their young children using everyday moments. And it doesn’t require flash cards or rote memorization. Math is all around us, and parents and caregivers can use simple tools and activities to share with children important math concepts like shapes, sizes, number order and counting.

Even very young babies get basic math concepts like quantity and space, and are interested in understanding the math around them. Professor Deborah Stipek of Stanford University explains that young children learn best during playful, everyday activities, like counting toes at bath time or buttons on a shirt. At meal times, a parent or caregiver can point out shapes in their baby’s food or in the kitchen. Reading books and singing songs that have basic counting or rhyming patterns also help familiarize children with basic math skills.

Older toddlers enjoy learning math from fun activities like shape hunting or counting games. Once they learn basic skills like counting to ten, children enjoy being asked to find a set number of safe items around the house that match a certain number or shape.

And it is never to early—or late!—to get started. Parents and caregivers can help build math confidence and skill whatever the age of the child.


Resources for Sharing:


Early math experts explain why it’s important to help children discover a love of math in this sweet, original Too Small to Fail video. >>

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A Special Thanksgiving Message

As we prepare to take a day or two off from our busy work lives to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday with family and friends, the staff at Too Small to Fail would like to take this opportunity to express gratitude for the work of our partners, colleagues and friends. We couldn’t do what we do without you.

Thanks to the work of our many partners and supporters, we’ve been able to reach millions of parents, caregivers, early childhood educators and policy makers with information about how to help secure a brighter future for all children in America. From New York City to Oakland, California, we have established relationships with incredible organizations and individuals who are committed to helping children succeed by improving early vocabulary and math skills, strengthening social skills and empowering parents with tools to help them improve their children’s early learning.

We look forward to continuing this work in the upcoming year, even as we count our many blessings and lessons from the past year.

And a special thank you to all of you who work so hard to make a positive difference in individual children’s lives—whether your own children or those of others. Know that your work matters, and the time you take to talk, read and sing to the babies and toddlers in your life—even if just for a few minutes a day—means a lot to their development and well-being.

So, whether you’re braving the roads or skyways to be with loved ones, or are wrestling a turkey into your oven or vegetables into a pot, we hope you get to enjoy some quality time with the little ones in your life. And if you’re looking for a fun activity to explore with your child during the next few days, here’s an easy one we found that highlights gratitude and encourages together time.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family. We hope it’s a special one.

Happy Thanksgiving to the Too Small to Fail team, to everyone at the Clinton Foundation,  to Mme. Secretary and her lovely family, and to all the readers here at Still 4 Hill. Have a wonderful, safe Thanksgiving!

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I am thankful, every day of every year, for having the chance to be on earth at the same time as Hillary Clinton.


A Little Routine for Life-long Health

All humans are supposed to be creatures of habit, but children really thrive on habit and routine—even when it appears otherwise!  Children deeply benefit from routines that establish healthy habits like regular sleep, nutritious meals eaten around the dinner table, and an organized home. This is because daily and family routines help children develop the cognitive, emotional and social skills they will need to succeed in school and beyond.

Researchers encourage establishing routines with children from infancy for various reasons. Routines help children learn that they can trust and depend on adults—a valuable asset for emotional stability in relationships and an important way to establish parent-child bonds. Meaningful routines—like the ones we practice as rituals during Thanksgiving and other holidays—help children feel like they belong to a community, and improve their social skills. Some research even suggests that children living in families with regular routines suffer from fewer illnesses, like respiratory infections.

Parents and caregivers can help children establish healthy routines that have direct and life-long benefits. For example, parents can read books with their babies and young children at bedtime to help them sleep better. Parents can also establish regular times of conversation, like around the dinner table, to improve bonding and stimulate language. Finally, parents and caregivers can use holiday gatherings like Thanksgiving to instill a sense of tradition and history in the family.


Resources for Sharing:

  • This article from the AAP explains how various routines throughout a child’s day can improve moods and benefit development.
  • This article from Raising Children Network offers tips for how parents can incorporate routines and ritual into family life.
  • A reminder that quality time can happen in short intervals—even for busy families!


This beautiful video from BabyWorld shows how a bedtime routine will help your infant get the sleep his body—and brain—need. >>


Gratitude for Every Day of the Year

Were you taught to count your blessings as a child?  Turns out, this is important advice for young children and adults alike. While rituals like Thanksgiving serve as a great opportunity to express gratitude within families, new research is showing that teaching young children how to express gratitude on a regular basis is an important skill that will benefit them their entire lives.

According to a growing body of research, there are many benefits to the social, emotional and physical development of children when they are taught to feel and express gratitude regularly. Psychologists have found that when people think about the positive things in their lives—even while experiencing stressful situations—they can increase their happiness, improve sleep, and reduce anxiety.  The benefits stem from brain hormones triggered and released by positive thoughts. These “feel-good” hormones counter the effects of the body’s stress hormones, which can harm developing minds and bodies. Expressing gratitude on a regular basis can improve the immune system, speed up recovery time and prevent chronic illnesses like obesity and heart disease. Finally, the more positive a child’s thinking, the more eager they are to learn and engage with others. This improves their social relationships and encourages new connections.

This does not mean that parents and caregivers should stop children from expressing negative feelings or emotions. But parents can help young children learn how to think positively and express gratitude by talking about their own gratitude for the positive things and people in their lives. Also, parents and caregivers can help young toddlers develop gratitude by sharing books about thankfulness, and involving them in activities—like delivering donated food to a food bank—that encourage sharing and empathy for others.


Resources for Sharing:

  • This news article from the Wall Street Journal explains recent research on gratitude, and how it benefits children and families.
  • Tips, videos and other resources from Greater Good about why gratitude matters—and how to express it regularly!
  • Ten ways to help children express their gratitude, starting now!


This video for parents explains why teaching gratitude can improve health and well-being for their children, and themselves. >>

Here is what Hillary is thankful for today.

Quality child care makes our families & communities stronger. Thanks to the President for signing bipartisan child care bill.

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When Bill Clinton appeared on Ellen yesterday,  he spoke about Too Small to Fail.   Over the course of the campaign cycle,  several newsletters came through from Too Small to Fail, but, in an effort to keep readers apprised of Hillary’s campaign appearances, I held off on posting them so as not to crowd too many posts here.

Since President Clinton seemed to imply that this message is perhaps more important than any campaign, I guess it is high time we played catch-up here.  These are the messages that were on hold.

A Village Turns Out to Close the Word Gap

This past year has been an important one for Too Small to Fail. We’ve built new partnerships and made many new friends along the way. The truth is that many dedicated people are working on closing the word gap around the country—from hospitals to churches, community centers to early learning facilities—but our emerging work together has helped to elevate the importance of talking, reading and singing to children from birth in order to build young brains and change the future of America. And we’re starting to see great results.

Last week, Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton spoke at the annual American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) conference in San Diego. During her speech, she announced the launch of the AAP’s updated early literacy toolkit for pediatricians and parents, which provides information and tips for doctors to speak with parents about early brain development and why talking, reading and singing regularly to children from birth helps their health and well-being. The toolkit is titled “Books Build Connections,” and was developed in partnership with Too Small to Fail. It is available online for free at www.aap.org/literacy.

We then made our way to Dreamforce 2014, an annual multi-day software and technology conference produced by Salesforce in San Francisco. At Dreamforce, hundreds of volunteers joined Secretary Clinton, Marc Benioff and our partners UPS, Bay Area Council, UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital, Kaiser Permanente, and Goodby Silverstein & Partners to stuff thousands of tote bags with books, CDs, clothes, and other materials. The tote bags are part of our “Talking is Teaching: Talk, Read, Sing” campaign, and will go to families in Oakland to help them close the word gap.

Finally, we wrapped our week up in Washington DC, where we gathered with more than 100 federal agency representatives, early childhood advocates, pediatricians, city mayors and many others to announce new initiatives, discuss ways that communities are tackling the problem of the word gap, and to share new research about language development. It was an inspiring and informative day, and participants left energized to take on the word gap in new ways.

We couldn’t do what we do without our partners, but also without the parents, caregivers and caring communities that want to help our next generation of children succeed. Thank you for all that you do, and we continue to look forward to our work together.


In Seattle, parents learn how talking with their children from birth establishes a solid foundation for life. >>

Why Talking Math Matters

Counting steps to the mailbox. Pointing out how much bigger a tree is compared to a sapling. Identifying the shapes of houses, road signs or other objects around you.  These are all ways that parents introduce math concepts into the learning of very young children. Early math can be fun and easy, and both parents and children benefit from the shared experience of talking about the math that surrounds us.

According to the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, approximately 1 in 5 adults in the United States has difficulty understanding middle-school math. Unfortunately, this difficulty with math translates into difficulty managing many important tasks—like following recipes and calculating change. Familiarity with early mathematical concepts paves the way for more complicated mathematical and logical thinking in adulthood, which can be helpful in jobs and in other areas of adult life.

Studies have found that the more early math concepts children are familiar with by the time they enter school, the more likely they are to do well in math and other subjects later on. Much like vocabulary and early language skills, early math skills develop from infancy through simple interactions with loved ones. Early math is much more than just counting, however. Parents and caregivers can help their children develop an appreciation of math by using opportunities throughout the day to talk about math concepts like numbers, size order and shapes.

Parents can help their children learn to love math by incorporating math talk into every day activities and by encouraging their children to talk math back. No matter your comfort with middle-school math, working early math language into your day with your children is easy to do and will help them in the long run.

Resources for Sharing:

  • These tips from NAEYC help parents of infants and toddlers incorporate math talk and math activities into every day routines.
  • This article in the Seattle Times points out how children’s math problems begin before kindergarten—and how caregivers can help.
  • LOTS of different tips and resources from Math at Play for parents on how to incorporate math into everyday learning.


Who doesn’t love Sesame Street’s The Count for all things math? Fun video for parents and kids alike, here. >>

Fathers Are Not Just For Playtime

The role and meaning of fathers has changed over time. Fathers are taking care of children now more than ever before. In fact, the time that fathers spend weekly on child care has more than tripled since 1965. And the traditional term “father” more broadly now refers to trusted male figures (e.g. grandfathers, uncles, and mentors) who also play a vital role in the growth and development of a child. Just like mothers, fathers help very young children develop skills that benefit social, emotional and cognitive growth.

Starting from birth, fathers play a powerful role in helping their babies form close emotional bonds built on love and trust. Infants who are securely attached to their parents or caregivers are better able to self-regulate their emotions and more likely to develop positive relationships with their peers and other adults. There are simple and everyday actions that fathers can take—like reading or singing to a baby, stroking a baby’s forehead, or being responsive to a baby’s cries—to promote bonding and attachment.

A series of studies have emerged in recent years that outline the unique and positive role that fathers play in their children’s health and development. For example, children who have involved and nurturing fathers demonstrate higher language and cognitive abilities and fare better in school. They also show higher self-esteem and more sociable behavior towards their peers.

Dads tend to play with their children in different ways than moms, but both parents play important roles in their young children’s lives. And fathers—biological or not—are important contributors to their children’s development in many different ways.


Resources for Sharing:

  • These tips from KidsHealth describe the various ways that fathers can bond with their children from infancy.
  • This article from Huffington Post explains the science behind how fathers influence their children’s early development.
  • These incredible photos show how fathers contribute to the daily lives of children.


This fun video offers various ways that the laughter that fathers enjoy with their children can actually benefit them, too! >>

Hocus-Pocus, Time to Focus!

If you watch several preschoolers for a while, you may notice a difference in the way they focus on activities like dressing themselves or stacking blocks. Some may have long enough attention spans to quickly complete the tasks at hand, while some may get frustrated or distracted and give up early. The ability of young children to manage tasks like these is related to what researchers call “executive function” of the brain—the ability to control impulses, to concentrate for long periods of time, and to master complicated tasks.

Executive function develops in infancy, and is responsible for helping our brains manage multiple streams of information at the same time. In children, executive function governs self-control and concentration. As children grow into adulthood, these skills help them with a number of activities including managing stress, memorization, following instructions, problem solving and regulating emotions. Researchers have found that children with poorly developed executive function tend to have more behavioral problems and difficulty in school, whereas children with highly developed executive function know how to focus on tasks at hand and get along well with others. According to some studies, highly developed executive function is a better predictor of academic achievement than IQ.

Many factors play a critical role in the development of executive function, and parents can help young children develop these skills in simple ways early on. For example, by establishing routines, parents and caregivers can help children feel secure and learn how to manage their emotions. Games that encourage following rules—like “Simon Says”—or that encourage memorization also improve executive function. And the more that parents talk, read and sing to their children, the more children learn how to communicate their thoughts effectively with adults and peers.

Dual language learning can also help with executive function by training the brain to juggle multiple ideas and vocabulary simultaneously. With practice and plenty of love from parents and caregivers, children can learn the skills they will need to succeed in life.


Resources for Sharing:

  • This article from Parents explains how executive function works, and how parents can encourage its development.
  • This article from the Harvard Graduate School of Education offers tips and fun activities for parents to use with young children to improve memory and inhibit impulses.


The Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University highlights experts, educators and children as they explore executive function. >>

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Univision Focuses on Early Learning During Education Week

All this week, Too Small to Fail media partner Univision and its affiliate stations across the country are participating in the network’s fourth annual Education Week, a multimedia campaign on education that spans across television, radio, digital and community events.

We’re thrilled to be partnering with them on this effort. During Education Week, Univision affiliates across the country deliver compelling stories, important research and useful resources to help Hispanic families better engage their children’s education for success in school and beyond. This week, popular shows like “Primer Impacto”, “Hoy” and “Aqui y Ahora”, are showing viewers how to talk, read and sing with young children every day, and how those activities develop language and early learning skills.

An important message throughout some of this programming is how dual language learners—children whose families speak a language other than English at home—benefit greatly from being spoken to in their parent’s native language. As we have highlighted in the past, children who are exposed to more than one language typically develop stronger math and reading skills in English, are more creative thinkers, and problem-solve better than monolingual children. But this advantage is strongest when children hear many words from parents and caregivers, so they can develop a large vocabulary in their home language as well as in English.

We’re sharing this week’s Education Week programming in our social media, as well as information about dual language learners from researchers and other partners. Follow along on Twitter and Facebook, or by using #ClaveAlExito!


Resources for Sharing:

  • This Univision page includes listings for Education Week programming.
  • Five tips for parents about dual language learning, and how to encourage vocabulary development in young children.
  • This op-ed from Cindy McCain and Roberto Llamas of Univision explains why it’s important for parents to talk, read and sing frequently to their children—in any language.


An animated video featuring famous bilingual singer and author Jose Luiz Orozco. >>



Love these innovative investments to close the & opportunity gap for Chicago kids cc

Pritzker-led group sinks $16.9 million into pre-K for poor Chicago kids

A group of private investors, led by Chicago billionaire J.B. Pritzker, will invest $16.9 million in an innovative financing scheme that allows Chicago to expand pre-kindergarten programs for more than 2,000 low-income children over the next four years.

If it works, in terms of reducing the future costs of special education and remedial programs, the investors aim to get their money back, plus interest, but at no cost to taxpayers. The financing technique is sometimes called a “social impact bond” or “pay for success” financing.

In this scenario, Chicago Public Schools will get about a third of the savings generated if the program succeeds, with the rest going to pay back investors.

Read more >>>>

Proud to launch a new toolkit at to help pediatricians & parents talk, read & sing to babies:

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Nurturing a Kinder, Gentler Child With Empathy

Sometimes, very young children can be highly attuned to the emotional state of others—crying when they see a parent or sibling cry, for example. Other times, they can appear insensitive, ignoring a child’s cries or pointing out differences that make adults wince. The ability to relate to how others feel, or empathy, is learned in different ways throughout a person’s life and while not always readily apparent in babies or toddlers, it is an important skill to learn that contributes to success in school and beyond.

Empathy is closely linked to social and emotional development, and researchers agree that people who show strong empathy for others tend to have better social interactions, and do better in school and at work. This kind of prosocial behavior—behavior that benefits others—is an asset in building relationships and in developing moral behavior. Like other social and emotional skills, empathy is best nurtured in infancy by a parent or caregiver.

Talking about feelings is a great way to start this process. In order to help children develop the positive benefits of empathy—without becoming emotionally distressed by the pain of others—parents and caregivers can use every day moments to teach these important life skills. For example, if a child observes another fall down, a parent can explain how that child may feel and then model empathic behavior by asking the fallen child if he’s okay or needs help.

Parents can also help their children understand that it feels good to help others in need by being affectionate and responsive to their children’s needs.


Resources for Sharing:

  • Find tips here for improving the social and emotional health of children from birth through age three, from the experts at ZERO TO THREE.
  • This article from PBS offers tips for nurturing emotionally secure, confident children—from infancy.

First Teachers Can Be Most Important Teachers

Even if parents don’t see themselves as teachers, they are their children’s first—and often, most!—important teachers. From even before birth, babies learn to recognize the sound of their mother’s voices and learn about their environment. And after birth, babies look to parents to help them make sense of the world around them, from new foods to new experiences. Every book that is read, song that is sung, or story that is told is an opportunity for parents to teach their young children about their environment, boost their vocabulary and build closer bonds.

But parents aren’t the only teachers in a young child’s life. Increasingly, grandparents play the role of primary caregivers to young children and foster their physical, emotional and cognitive development. According to AARP, almost 3 million grandparents in the United States serve as primary caregivers for their grandchildren. These grandparents provide an important way for young children to learn important skills from older adults, as well as family history.

Older siblings also play a very important role in young children’s lives by offering guidance on simple activities or social customs. New research shows that the learning that takes place between younger and older siblings is spontaneous and two-sided—meaning that older siblings often offer instruction to younger siblings without being asked, but younger siblings often ask their older siblings how to do things, too.

While young children can learn from every person they encounter, it is the ones who engage with them on a daily basis—be they parents, grandparents, siblings or preschool teachers—that best inspire a child’s life-long curiosity and love for learning.


Resources for Sharing:

  • Tips and information from AARP for grandparents who serve as their grandchildren’s primary caregivers, from important medical records to legal issues.
  • Ideas for fun activities that support early learning, from our friends at ZERO TO THREE.
  • 20 tips for parents from preschool teachers about how to get the most from your toddler.
  • This blog post from Too Small to Fail reveals how one family’s youngest teacher helps his sister learn.

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Developing Young Readers

Have you ever noticed how some children (and adults!) can get so absorbed in a book that the rest of the world seems to disappear around them? A love for reading can be both fun and educational, and it can start early in a child’s life.

According to the National Institute for Literacy, one out of every five children in the United States will experience a reading or writing problem in school. But children who are read to on a regular basis from infancy are better prepared to learn in school and beyond. In fact, the more words that an adult speaks, reads or sings to a child from birth the better the child’s grasp of language.

Parents and caregivers can help create a love for reading in their children by reading a wide variety of books, stories and other materials with their children every day. For parents who find reading books difficult, there are many other opportunities to help build a child’s reading and vocabulary skills. Reading signs out loud while walking through the grocery store, pointing out words on bus ads, or even flipping through a book and talking about the pictures can also help build a child’s understanding of reading. And singing, rhyming and conversation are great ways to stimulate babies’ brains and expand their grasp of language.

Research also shows that when parents or caregivers use “big” words with their children—even if the child seems too young to understand—they are helping their children learn how to communicate more effectively.


Resources for Sharing:

  • These articles from PBS Parents offer tips for how to incorporate reading into other daily activities, like riding in the car or taking a bath.
  • Additional fun ways for parents and caregivers to build their children’s literacy skills from Get Ready to Read.
  • This article from the American Academy of Pediatrics explains why vocabulary is important to early brain development.
  • This op-ed by Cindy McCain and Roberto Llamas explains the word gap and how parents and caregivers can help close it.


Check out this video produced by the staff of Next Generation and Too Small to Fail about favorite children’s books—we dare you not to get a little teary! >>


Sensory Play Encourages Thinking—and Fun!

Have you noticed how babies try to put everything in their mouths, no matter the yuck factor? It is one of the many reasons we must remain vigilant around young children, but it’s also a fascinating peek inside their active brains. By using their senses—sight, touch, hearing, smell and taste—young children explore and learn about their world. And this curiosity offers a great opportunity for parents and caregivers to help their children learn.

Even from before birth, children are gathering information about the world around them. Researchers now know that infants in utero can recognize their mother’s voice, and many recognize commonly heard sounds and speech patterns. From birth on, babies use all their senses to catalog what they learn and to develop their thinking skills. It is during this time that “sensory play” (play activities that encourage the use of all five senses) becomes important for later learning.

For example, babies learn to recognize songs they hear from parents and caregivers and eventually learn to sing along. And when a parent or caregiver describes the different textures they encounter—like coarse sand or smooth glass—young children begin to expand their vocabulary to better describe what they feel.

Parents and caregivers can encourage sensory play by offering safe, fun activities inside and outside the home that stimulate baby’s senses. Baskets filled with scarves or plastic kitchen utensils offer safe, fun ways for a baby to use sensory play. Also, parents can use everyday moments—like splashing water during bath time—to encourage exploration of the world around them.


Resources for Sharing:

  • This article from NAEYC explains why “babies like boxes best”, and how parents can encourage sensory play in their young children.
  • This article from Kids Health describes how children learn from play and the safe exploration of their environment.
  • Toddlers learn from “experiments”, says this article from ZERO TO THREE.


Kayden became a social media sensation thanks to her excitement at running in the rain. Check it out, here. >>


All We Need Is A Little Love (Mostly)

A cuddle. A warm smile. Softly spoken words. All of these things help babies feel comfortable and secure, and help them learn that they can trust the adults around them. The more safe and secure babies and young children feel, the more easily they form healthy relationships with others, and can turn their attention to learning.

Early brain development researchers have found that the emotional and social development of children is as important—if not more important—than their cognitive development. This is because when children form secure attachments (close emotional bonds built on love and trust) with parents and caregivers, they more easily explore the world around them, regulate their own emotions, and can comfort themselves when needed. If a young child has formed insecure attachments (emotional bonds characterized by unpredictability and fear), they may not know how to safely and appropriately interact with other people and their environment.

The bottom line? Secure attachments help a child build the skills they will need to succeed in school and in their adult lives.

Parents and caregivers can help build their child’s social and emotional development in a few simple ways. Even if the reason for crying is unclear, it is important that a parent or caregiver respond calmly and affectionately to reassure the child. Established routines are also important in helping babies feel secure, even if the routines are adapted from time to time to accommodate a child’s needs. And small actions—like looking into a baby’s eyes when talking, or gently stroking their forehead at bedtime—can help increase the sense of bonding for both parents and child.


Resources for Sharing:

  • PBS’s special feature “This Emotional Life” explains why emotional bonding is so important for children’s health and well-being.
  • Our blog post on the special role of parents in young children’s lives offers ideas for ways to improve bonding.
  • Bonding with fathers is the focus of this article from Kids Health, which offers ways that fathers can build strong emotional bonds with young children, too.

We’re honoring all of the teachers who have made a difference in our lives—parents and caregivers, too—for World Teacher’s Day on October 5th. Starting Monday, September 29, use #MyFirstTeacher on Twitter to share your best early teacher and what they taught you. We’ll retweet our favorites, so include a photo if you can!


Parents from the land “Down Under” explain how they bonded—or didn’t—with their young children (including thoughts from actor Russell Crowe!). >>

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