Starting at birth a baby’s brain develops rapidly, producing more than one million neural connections each second. A baby is influenced by loving relationships, by positive experiences, and by a calm environment including love, music, rocking and listening to conversation, and a violent or a hostile environment can result in permanent trauma to a child’s brain.
Early Childhood Home Visiting for the newborn and for the mother, by an experienced volunteer or a professional, is funded federally for eligible Moms on Medicaid. Some states fund Home Visiting more broadly. Birthing is a momentous experience for any mother, perhaps especially for one who has no prior experience with babies or young children.
A baby learns while he or she is awake. Learning experiences can happen at home, either with parents, grandparents or a caretaker. They can also happen at Early Head Start, at a licensed childcare center or at the home of a friend who is caring for neighboring babies. Licensed childcare with trained caretakers is scarce and costly, and fees vary from state to state. Most parent(s) need government subsidies to offset these costs.
Early Childhood Education Resources: Zero to Three, Invest in Kids, Strategies for Children
Three and four year olds require more of a schedule. Children’s learning may include colors, shapes, numbers, letters, natural science, history, and songs. Toys and games may attract a child’s interest and various outdoor activities, like simple games, a sand pit, or caring for animals, delight many of our youngsters. Many children will learn to play together for short periods of time using their imaginations or various toys or games. A group of children can be brought together to “show and tell” their favorite objects. Time to play alone is also important, as are naps. Time for the teacher or parent to listen to each young child is crucial.
Childcare Resources: Childcare Resources Inc., Head Start
School readiness for kindergarten or first grade is crucial. This is especially true when a child has not spent time in a group setting that is separated from his or her parents. Some states may fund short-term readiness programs in order to prepare children for the classroom environment.
Additional Resources: Mayo Clinic – Kindergarten Readiness
When a child’s behavior is different from what is expected, and/or difficult to manage, access to a counselor is very important. The counselor’s advice may relieve the situation. In addition, the counselor may recommend a medical evaluation. If there is a problem, early intervention by a professional may lead to a resolution.
Additional Resources: MA Infant & Early Childhood Mental Health, Zero to Three, Easter Seal Society
There are issues that are common to Early Childhood Education (ECE) and to kindergarten and elementary school.
- Teachers of three and four year olds benefit from training and degrees in early education.
- Early Childhood Education teachers are important and should be paid a living wage.
- These teachers should have access to trained counselors and a school nurse.
- Early Childhood Education and licensed childcare is inaccessible to most families because of cost.
- The federal budget (through block grant to states) provides childcare to only 17% of eligible parents.
Additional Resources: Teacher certification, Moms Rising
Programs that Make Childcare More Affordable
Federal Refundable Tax Credits: The Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit allows guardians to claim certain subsidies.
State Legislation: Some states have passed legislation requiring public schools to offer or provide space for childcare. Some states designate tax funds or charitable fundraisers to help pay for childcare.
The Child Care Resource Center (CCRC): CCRC offers subsidy programs and financial assistance for families to pay for childcare and early head start.
Childcare and Development Block Grant (CCDBG): While childcare received a huge boost in the 2018 federal budget, approximately 83% of eligible children are still not being served. Here is the powerpoint by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) on childcare development.
Childcare Resources Inc. This organization may help you find childcare resources locally.