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Archive for the ‘Infants and toddlers’ Category

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Photo: Micaela Bedell for Strategies for Children

Researchers know that talking to babies helps their vocabularies grow. The more words infants hear the better. But studies show that in addition to more words, babies benefit from hearing more complex words. And as children grow, parents can help by having more “abstract” conversations.

Meredith Rowe, a Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE) professor, explains her findings on language development in an interview posted on HGSE’s “Usable Knowledge” website.

“We’ve known for a while that the quantity of input matters. I think the shift to a focus on quality rather than quantity was a natural next step in the field,” Rowe explains, adding:

“It is much easier to send a message about quantity, but if we know that quality trumps quantity, statistically, then perhaps we can really try and change the message to be more about having high-quality conversations with children rather than just ‘talking a lot.’”  (more…)

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Michele McDonald for Strategies for Children

“How are we going to make engineering work in an infant space?” asked Monica Dolan, an early educator who works with infants at The Children’s Center, Caltech’s child-care center.

Featured in a news story from Marketplace called “Caltech’s Little Engineers that Could,” Dolan is an early educator who was meeting with “a group of educators gathered to plan their big teaching initiative for the year ahead.”

“The center has always focused on teaching through science and math principles – after all, it is attached to Caltech – but diving into engineering curriculum for little ones was new,” the story says.

At the center, infants build with big, soft blocks.

Toddlers construct a train: “They scour the yard for materials to make carriages and find empty crates… Then a classic engineering problem strikes: resource scarcity. The crates run out and there are still 2-year-olds without a seat on the train. The toddlers solve it by finding chairs to create the needed train carriages.”

Later these students go inside and listen to a story called “Iggy Peck, Architect,” by Andrea Beaty. Iggy is a fictional architect who, at age 2, built a tower in under an hour using diapers that weren’t entirely clean.  (more…)

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Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

Principals can strengthen the pre-K-to-third-Grade pipeline.

Rhian Evans Allvin was reminded of this a number of years ago at a conference. Allvin — executive director of the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) — recalls hearing a principal at the conference who “spoke of how he sent out letters to parents of newborns in his district, welcoming them into the learning community and offering a list of available early childhood resources and opportunities.”

Allvin’s experience is part of an article, “Strategies for Aligning Pre-K -3,” in the January/February 2015 edition of Principal Magazine.

The article highlights the release of “Leading Pre-K-3 Learning Communities: Competencies for Effective Principal Practice.”

The guide helps principals “create and support connections between the worlds of birth-to-five and K-12 and… implement developmentally-appropriate teaching and learning practices to ensure successful Pre-K-3 continuums in their schools,” the executive summary explains.

Published by the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP), the full guide can be ordered on the NAESP website(more…)

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Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

This month, a National Geographic article explores “Baby Brains,” looking at the factors that hinder or help infants’ neurological development.

“Peering inside children’s brains with new imaging tools, scientists are untangling the mystery of how a child goes from being barely able to see when just born to being able to talk, ride a tricycle, draw, and invent an imaginary friend by the age of five,” the article explains. “The more scientists find out about how children acquire the capacity for language, numbers, and emotional understanding during this period, the more they realize that the baby brain is an incredible learning machine. Its future—to a great extent—is in our hands.”

The article adds: “The amount of brain activity in the earliest years affects how much there is later in life.” A picture of the EEG scans of eight-year-olds shows “that institutionalized children who were not moved to a nurturing foster care environment before they were two years old have less activity than those who were.” Again, early nurturing was essential for building brains.  (more…)

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Photo: Caroline Silber for Strategies for Children

Photo: Caroline Silber for Strategies for Children

During last month’s White House Summit on Early Education, the Obama Administration released a new public policy tool, the “Playbook for Becoming an Early Learning Community.”

The playbook offers communities “strategies for local leaders to develop and expand early education in their communities,” according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. It’s part of the president’s national early learning agenda called “Invest in US.”

The playbook should be a helpful resource to local communities — both here in Massachusetts and across the nation — that are working to improve early learning and kindergarten readiness.

As the playbook explains, “An Early Learning Community works together to deliver measurable improvements in the lives of its youngest children. It provides all (more…)

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Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

This post was originally published on November 25, 2013.

“The time is now to redesign this country’s approach to language and literacy instruction, and governors who choose to can lead the charge,” according to the National Governors Association (NGA) report, “A Governor’s Guide to Early Literacy: Getting all Students Reading by Third Grade.

Acknowledging the fact that only one-third of America’s fourth graders are reading proficiently, the report points out that America’s governors can help address this challenge. They can build a bridge between knowledge and action, connecting what researchers know to what policymakers do.

What the Research Says

To provide the research background on the literacy issue, the report points to three widely accepted research findings:

1. “Starting at kindergarten is too late.” Because literacy skills start developing at birth and because achievement gaps show up early, infants, toddlers and preschoolers need effective, high-quality early education and care programs that introduce early literacy concepts.
(more…)

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Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

Research on how infants develop language skills is providing crucial insights on how language-rich environments benefit babies. And helping babies develop language skill is a crucial early step in helping them grow into proficient third-grade readers who can tackle the challenges of school and careers.

Two new studies that describe some of the fine points of boosting infants’ and toddlers’ language come from the University of Iowa, Indiana University, and the University of Missouri.

The research from the University of Iowa encourages parents to try to figure out what their babbling babies might be saying because doing so could help babies learn to communicate sooner.

“Pay attention, mom and dad, especially when your infant looks at you and babbles,” a university article explains.

“Parents may not understand a baby’s prattling, but by listening and responding, they let their infants know they can communicate which leads to children forming complex sounds and using language more quickly.”

This advice is based on a new study — “Maternal Responsiveness and the Development of Directed Vocalizing in Social Interactions” — conducted by researchers at Iowa and at Indiana University. The study, which was published in the journal Infancy, found that “how parents respond to their children’s babbling can actually shape the way infants communicate and use vocalizations.” (more…)

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