Enhance and expand a young child’s life with trips to local parks and forests, the library or fish hatchery, or go for a walk or bike ride. (THE NEWS/files)

On Community: Early childhood does matter

‘Children benefit greatly from songs and rhymes.’

There is growing evidence what goes on in a child’s early years matters and shows up in the formal school years and in adulthood.

Studies show quality early learning does have long-term benefits, including academics.

With quality early learning, there are lower rates of high school incompletions, less welfare assistance later in life and less juvenile arrests and subsequent jail sentences.

The years between the ages of birth to five are viewed as critical periods for developing the foundations for thinking, behaviours and emotional well-being.

Children develop linguistic, cognitive, social, emotional and regulatory skills that predict their later functioning in life.

In a good quality early education program, children have access to books and stories that can enlarge their world-view while enhancing their language skills. They are given long periods to play and exploration time as they begin to discover their likes and interests. There is time and the capacity to explore and create, nurturing a zest for life.

Furthermore, there is chance to practice and have success in social situations where turn-taking and sharing are vital to that success. And then there is the development of friendships. What child does not desire to have a friend and a sense of belonging?

Another body of research indicates children who make friendships in the early years do better in life.

There are practical actions parents, grandparents and others can take to make a difference in those early years.

Joanna Tones, who holds the position of Early Learning District Helping teacher in School District No. 42, she made several suggestions families can think about before their child enters formal schooling:

• Young children benefit greatly from songs and rhymes, as children who enjoy music, singing and rhyming on a regular basis tend to speak more easily, leading to confidence. Rhymes help us play with words, and by hearing different sounds, we learn how to combine and blend sounds to make words.

In our community, there are programs such as Mother Goose that teach parents skills to interact in this way with their child. The public library is also a good place to get started. Not only do they provide programs that enrich a young child’s life but the books are there to borrow and enjoy.

• Read to your child. Reading has so many benefits from the emotional connection of spending quality time together to the modeling of an experienced reader to the exposure of new ideas and new vocabulary.

• Practice increasing independence, whether it is putting on coats and shoes or using the bathroom. No greater words are spoken whether in a classroom or at home as ‘I did it.’ Confidence is increased making other self-help tasks easier to tackle.

• Talk to children about feelings and emotions. Children need to know that having strong or big feelings are okay and we all have them, but what you do with them is important. So providing guidance or having some Playdoh to squeeze on hand helps. A good run at the playground is always helpful, too. Once a body and brain are calm, children are in a much better place to think about solutions for the next time.

These are just a few suggestions. There are many ways to enhance and expand a young child’s life in Maple Ridge. Trips to the park, forest to explore nature, the library, the fish hatchery, a walk or bike ride on the dike, where you can look for birds or frogs or turtles or maybe see a fish jump.

As it turns out, it does matter and we can all play a part in its success.

– By Colene Thompson, chair of the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows-Katzie Community Network.

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