While parents and child care providers play a critical role as children's first teachers, public librarians are also in a unique, “front-line” position as educators who interact daily with many children of diverse ages and backgrounds. If you have visited one of the 75 Vermont libraries participating in the Vermont Early Literacy Initiative (VELI), you’ve probably noticed that it’s stocked with colorful, quality picture books, hands-on learning materials and an enthusiastic librarian who is eager to share reading, conversation, new vocabulary, standards-based learning activities and many other resources with young children, their parents and caregivers.
Creativity is an inherent and natural function of the brain. When it comes to nurturing creativity in children, focusing on the process of making art is far more important than focusing on the product. Process is the experimentation that happens while a child is creating something. It can involve watching paint colors mix, feeling the textures of the art materials, and using more or less of the medium. “Process-focused art” refers to an open-ended project in which a child is allowed to explore art materials without the pressure to copy a model or stay in the lines.There is no right or wrong way to do it. The child is invited to make something unique, rather than re-create a copy of someone else's art.
The development of strong communication skills is extremely important to a child’s success in school, relationships, and the workforce—and that development begins day one, before the child has begun using words. With the support of at least one responsive, nurturing caregiver, infant cries and smiles progress to preschooler and older children’s conversations and stories.
"Communication" occurs when our messages are effectively conveyed to our audience. Communicating with words involves the development of both language and speech—two different skills!
Helping our youngest children develop the skills to take control of their emotions and make decisions based on careful thinking rather than impulses is critical to their success in school, relationships, and life. The presence of at least one trusted and nurturing adult consistently available in each child’s life to help teach these skills through co-regulation is an important part of providing a strong start.
Science shows that a child’s early experiences can impact his or her brain development—for better or worse. Children who have experienced maltreatment and trauma need quick intervention to help them overcome any negative outcomes to their development. This is especially pertinent for children entering state custody whose family situation has been disrupted due to child abuse and neglect. In recognition of this, the Department for Children and Families’ (DCF) Family Service Division District Office in St. Johnsbury has implemented a new, child-focused approach to serving infants and toddlers who come into state custody, called The Safe Babies Court Teams Project.
We live in an exciting time when the science of genetics, neuroscience and biology are coming together to create an understanding of “resilience”: how likely an individual is to create positive outcomes in the face of challenges. Often visualized as the central support of a teeter-totter, resilience sets the genetic stage for this balance of negative life events against positive experiences that impact an individual’s entire life course. Those of us who act as caregivers for children can play a pivotal role in helping children achieve that balance.
Studies have found that children who experience, or even witness, ongoing violence and suffer from trauma without a caring adult to buffer the impact may develop smaller brain mass and lower brain function than those who do not. Without the support of a caring, protective adult, there is a significant risk later in life for higher rates of substance abuse, suicide attempts, and depressive disorders. As a prosecutor of crimes of domestic and sexual violence, this is evident amongst the child victims and witnesses with whom I interact.
This May, Let’s Grow Kids is helping to bring Dr. Allan Schore, internationally-recognized expert on attachment and brain development in the earliest years, to Vermont. He spoke with Dr. Miriam Voran on behalf of Let's Grow Kids in preparation for his visit. Click here to read the full interview and for details about Dr. Schore’s public lecture and workshops.
Adequate intake of nutrients during pregnancy and infancy is essential for supporting the rapid brain development occurring in the earliest years of a child’s life. In addition, mealtime offers a great opportunity for social and emotional development! Making sure children have key nutrients in their diet, and intentionally creating positive, routine mealtimes, helps children build a strong foundation of thinking, physical and social skills for future success in school, relationships and the workforce. As a Hannaford dietitian, I help people make food choices that support their family’s health.
When discussing early childhood, commentators often highlight how quality early experiences improve children’s brain function and educational prospects. Another important, and often overlooked consideration is how quality, affordable child care affects Vermont’s economic development. One of the largest challenges facing Vermont is its demographic makeup. Vermont is the second “oldest” state in the country with a median age of 42.3, and it also has the second lowest birth rate in the nation. We cannot begin to seriously address Vermont’s demographic issues without addressing the state’s early childhood system.