Giving Parents Tools to Help Their Babies and Toddlers Develop

Parents want their young children to get a good start in life, but how do they find practical tips they can trust and what can they do to help? And because children five and younger are often left out of most “back to school” events, First 5 LA and its Best Start effort want to equip parents to know the facts about helping their child learn and develop starting from birth, as well as provide them with simple ideas on how to take those steps in their lives.

The Ready to Learn! Fall campaign is a countywide public education effort to share tools and information as well as spread awareness about the importance of preparing children from birth through age 5 to be ready to learn. “Parents are their child's first teachers and being ready to learn begins at birth,” said Evelyn V. Martinez, chief executive officer of First 5 LA. “But the question parents often have is, how do you know if your child is learning and developing at an appropriate pace?”

According to Martinez, being familiar with early developmental milestones gives parents and all those working with children in preschool some practical, step-by-step checklists which profile each child's achievements compared with other children in the same age group. Often, special milestones help mark children's accomplishments, such as walking in infancy and entering school in early childhood as well as the development of other skills such as language, cognition, social/emotional awareness, hearing, perception, and memory. The results can reveal the child's strengths and weaknesses.

First 5 LA offers these simple steps parents can take to help children learn and develop:

  • As soon as your baby is born, start interacting, talking and reading to him or her.
  • Beginning at birth to 3 months your baby is noticing sounds and movements. So take time every day to play together with age-appropriate toys, make noises and sing songs.
  • At 3 to 6 months your baby is smiling, laughing and playing with her hands and feet so act silly with your baby to make her laugh. Play peek-a-boo and make funny faces so she can react.
  • At 1 year, your baby has said his first word and knows his name and understands when someone speaks to him. Talk to him often and use expressions for him to mimic.
  • At two years, your child answers simple questions, so use everyday situations to engage her-like during grocery shopping or play time.
  • At 3 years, your child is able to dress himself, knows his full name and how old he is, so make getting ready in the morning a learning time – give him a choice of two shirts and have him pick which one to wear.
  • At 4 years, your child knows how to cut out a picture with scissors and you can teach him how to make a fun collage from magazine cutouts using child safe scissors and glue.
  • At 5 years, your child is able to recognize several letters and the numbers 1-10. Have her start reading her favorite books to you – even if she doesn't know all of the words yet.

These tips for parents are provided in a special Ready to Learn! Action Pack which also includes other tools and ideas on how to prepare their child to be ready to learn:

  • How to Guide: Fun ways to use every day items to help support children for a lifetime of learning.
  • Best Start Piggy Bank to promote math for 0-5 and financial literacy.
  • “Shining Star” book encouraging the social aspects of being ready to learn.
  • Best Start lunch bag to promote nutritionally balanced eating.
  • Developmental building blocks poster for ages 0-5.

Over the past several months, Best Start has convened meetings with parents, nonprofits and other stakeholders across L.A. County to develop ways to strengthen communities for children and their families. To help promote the importance of a child's early years of development, Ready to Learn! Action Packs will be distributed through schools, parent groups and various community events throughout the county, including the Best Start Communities. For the names of these 14 Best Start communities visit www.beststartla.org or for further information call 213.482.7800.

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