Maria Hernandez: Creando un salón de clase mágico, usando una botella plástica a la vez

Algunos de nuestros momentos favoritos en WECA involucran conocer proveedores increíbles que van más allá en su trabajo. María Hernández, propietaria de Green Planet’s Daycare en Milwaukee, es un excelente ejemplo.

Maria Hernandez, owner of Green Planet's DaycareMientras Pam Polenz, directora de reclamos del Programa de Comidas, estaba acompañando a Alice Gómez Palacio, coordinadora de área del Programa de Comidas, ella sabía que estaba a punto de ver algo espectacular.

“Tan pronto como puse un pie en su patio delantero, inmediatamente me llamó la atención su creatividad única”, compartió Pam. “Tenía estas grandes estructuras de metal en el patio delantero que me llamaron la atención. Sabía que iba a ser una visita emocionante “.

El interior no fue la excepción. Brotado en una parte del aula había un árbol de tamaño natural. Lo que lo hizo fascinante fue que estaba hecho completamente de papel maché. Dispersos a lo largo de las paredes colgaban flores coloridas hechas de botellas de plástico y latas de metal. Una oruga hambrienta, hecha de vasos de plástico verde, estaba sentada en la parte superior de la estantería. Un reloj amarillo, transformado en sol, colgaba de una pared.

“María tiene talento”, agregó Pam. “Fue muy inspirador ver su habilidad para tomar objetos comunes y transformarlos en herramientas mágicas de enseñanza. Su talento cosecha un fuerte ambiente de aprendizaje para los niños bajo su cuidado ¡es asombroso!”

Le pedimos a Maria, participante del Programa de Alimentos de WECA desde 2013, que reflexionara sobre su pasión por enseñar a los niños y su enfoque en el reciclaje.

¿Por qué decidió comenzar a cuidar niños en su hogar?
Mi meta siempre ha sido implementar algo diferente en mi guardería de cómo cuidar nuestro medio ambiente por ello el nombre de “Green Planet’s Day Care”. Ya que cada uno de nosotros podemos marcar una diferencia para tener un nuevo mundo reciclando.

Mi pasión siempre ha sido apreciar y valorar la niñez cómo una etapa única y valiosa en la vida del ser humano y cómo proveedora tengo la responsabilidad de brindarle a los niños un ambiente seguro, saludable y estimulante, por ello me comprometo a crear un plan de trabajo qué cubra desde las rutinas diarias, hasta las actividades relacionadas con las áreas y centros de la clase, sin dejar ninguna pendiente, pues todas ellas van de la mano y estas se transforman en el niño en su totalidad.

IMG954291¿Qué originó esta idea de un cuidado enfocado en el reciclaje?
La idea se originó a través de mi trabajo en México en una comunidad rural donde había escasez de recursos para obtener los materiales necesarios para trabajar con los niños. Por lo tanto, siempre tenía qué reciclar los materiales y los niños tenían la oportunidad de reciclar los materiales, dándole un nuevo uso en el salón de clases.

¿De dónde obtiene sus materiales reciclados?
Los materiales reciclados los obtengo en su mayoría con las familias de los niños, recolectamos diferentes materiales de reciclaje. También reciclo lo que consumimos en mi hogar.

¿Cuáles son algunas de las actividades favoritas que hace con los niños usando los materiales reciclados?
Una de las actividades favoritas que más les gusta a los niños es hacer *maracas con botellas de agua y flores con cartones de huevo y rollos de papel. También les gusta hacer **alebrijes los cuáles son típicos de México. Esto les permite desarrollar su creatividad elaborando su propio arte.

¿Los niños bajo su cuidado crean cosas que están en su colección de arte reciclado?
¡Así es!  los niños mayores ayudaron a poner la corteza del árbol usando papel periódico y pintura no toxica, así cómo también cortaron flores con las botellas de plástico.

¿Si otros proveedores de cuidado infantil familiar quisieran utilizar su idea, cómo podrían comenzar?
Primeramente invitar a las familias a aprender a recolectar diferentes tipos de materiales qué consumimos día a día cómo el cartón, plástico, papel, envolturas, latas, tapas, etc.. para luego motivar a los niños a que ellos mismos separen los desechos o “basura” que se pueden reutilizar. Así mismo, enseñar tanto a los padres y niños la importancia de practicar las 3 “Rs” (Reducir, Reutilizar y Reciclar).Flowers made from plastic bottles

¿Cuál es la importancia, para los niños en su cuidado, que usen productos reciclados?
Mi meta es ofrecer a las familias la mejor experiencia de calidad protegiendo nuestro medio ambiente; crear conciencia y enseñarles a los niños, desde edades tempranas, a reciclar todos los días. Es importante guiar a los niños para que sean responsables primordialmente por nuestro planeta ya que esta será su responsabilidad futura.

¿Alguna idea que le gustaría compartir con otros proveedores para todo el estado de Wisconsin?
Además de reciclar adecuadamente, es importante motivar a los padres, familias y o amigos de los niños que acuden a la guardería, que se propongan trabajar en equipo para limpiar nuestro vecindario frecuentemente juntando la basura que hay en nuestras calles, y no esperar para hacerlo sólo el 22 de abril que es el día de la tierra, para crear conciencia de cuidar y proteger nuestro medio ambiente. También, es fundamental motivar a los niños a elaborar huertos y enseñarles el proceso de plantar semillas de vegetales, flores y diferentes tipos de plantas que no sean dañinas para el niño, esto ayudará a que ellos tengan la oportunidad de ver crecer las plantas y cuidarlas ellos mismos.

¿Algún otro mensaje para compartir?
Es muy importante si cada proveedor inculca a los padres el formar parte de un proyecto de reciclaje para así comenzar desde el hogar, ya que vivimos en un país multicultural en donde consumimos día a día diferentes tipos de productos los cuáles, si no los reciclamos, tardarán muchos años en deshacerse por sí mismos lo que continuaría afectando nuestro planeta.

Nos gustaría agradecer a María por compartir su pasión por el reciclaje e incorporarlo en su centro de cuidado infantil familiar. Si está buscando impulsar sus esfuerzos de reciclaje en su centro, ¡tenemos noticias para usted! Maria presentará un taller en nuestra Conferencia de WECA 2018 en octubre. Este taller será una experiencia práctica donde podrá crear herramientas mágicas de aprendizaje para su propio centro.

Talking to Parents about the Value of Playing with Loose Parts

Wisconsin Early Childhood Association had some excellent workshop sessions and engagement in our Play Space at our Fall 2017 conference on the topic of “loose parts”.  To extend your learning, we’d like to introduce you to blogger Lakisha Reid and her site, Play Empowers.  She has some valuable insights to offer early childhood professionals and parents!  What follows is her blog post on loose parts play.

Let Loose!
By: Lakisha Reid

Bits and Pieces of Loose and Lost parts are all the rage right now at Discovery Early Learning Center.  Treasure hunting is what the children are calling it and it’s filled with imagination, detailed storylines, and loose parts as props to extend the narrative.

Let Loose: Loose PartsI have only noticed this way of play since I let go of providing invitations and displays of loose parts in themed baskets, trays or whatever way I was presenting the materials.

Loose parts are just that, LOOSE and they are found in all shapes, sizes holding a wealth of possibilities in every corner nook and cranny of our indoor and outdoor classroom.

Finding, collecting and gathering these materials is chalk full of whole child learning. When children hunt for materials they are mobile, actively engaged and working towards a goal, they assess materials for their value in their play. A game of shipwreck calls for loose parts that hold a certain set of characteristics while a game of house has a different loose parts agenda.

They use their large and small muscles to transport and collect materials building on to their script as they go. This sparks language and takes children into a sort of heightened state of imaginative play where they are embedded into the script in such a way that it feels so real.

Let Loose: Loose PartsThey sort, classify, and count materials, they think critically about the alternate uses for open-ended materials and extend their ability to play symbolically, holding fast to their ideas and points of view.

This process of collecting or “treasure hunting” seems to be vital to the building of their play. It’s like they build up to a climax where their reach that zone, the zone where they all buy into the storyline, they are fully in character and what seemed hard or challenging is now the possible, what seemed above their physical and developmental potential becomes second nature.

It takes time, it takes space, and it takes adults who do not feel the urge to over organize.

We can provide a pretty array of loose parts for children to play with and explore, or we can design spaces using the loose parts concept in all areas of the space allowing children to explore parts that are truly LOOSE.

So what does this mean? 

  • Allow children to mix and move materials from one area to another
  • Allow materials to travel from inside to outside
  • Provide creative tools for transporting (bags, boxes, buckets, baskets)
  • Don’t feel the need to arrange or display loose parts perfectly.
  • Let loose parts at play stay at play (no sorting at the end of each night)
  • Provide loose parts with a variety of properties ( size, shape, weight, purpose etc)
  • Replace closed-ended toys with open-ended loose parts.

The benefits outweigh the mess! 

  • Language development  While at play with loose parts children have to share their ideas, the uses and purpose of each part and how it works in their play scenario. They have to build the play script part by part as new materials are collected and introduced to the play.
  • Mathematical concepts As children gather a variety of loose parts they are having real life experience with “stuff”. This naturally supports sorting, counting, classifying by characteristics such as size, color, shape or purpose. Children embed mathematical ideas and data gathered from the hands-on experience with these materials.
  • Scientific concepts Large loose parts require creative ways of transporting. This often beckons scientific thinking, simple machine creation, and testing of ideas and theories. concepts such as gravity, balance, weight vs strength, textures and more!
  • Physical development Loose parts play is PHYSICAL running, digging, lugging, balancing, and sorting.   Children are active and a-buz as they collect and play with large and small loose parts.
  • Connection Loose parts seem to generate a hive mind type of play, a play where children are all collecting, piling, scripting and engaging in the same developing play scenario. This type of play develops a sense of connection and almost an unspoken agreement to keep the play alive. Large parts require many children to work together, share ideas and set plans as a group. After reaching their goal they rejoice as a group allowing their collective success to pull them closer as play partners.
  • Meeting natural urges in play Children’s natural urge to collect, connect, position, contain and transport are met through loose parts play.
  • Social concepts When children play with loose parts they are met with the task of sharing their ideas, contributing to the narrative and accepting the points of view and contributions of others. They have to compromise and negotiate.
  • Imaginative play Loose parts provide endless possibilities. Children play symbolically as blocks become telephones and boxes serve as spaceships. Loose parts come alive when met with the imagination of a child.

LOOSE PARTS IDEAS LIST: 

Shells are a perfect loose part for children.Here I have compiled a short list of loose parts to get you started! The possibilities are endless!

Natural Loose Parts 

Rocks
Bricks
Logs
Leaves
Sticks
Large branches
Dirt/sand/water
Shells
Pine cones
Bones
Corn
Corn cobs
Tree cookies
Small and large logs
Bamboo cutoffs
Seagrass
Mulch
Hay bales
Nuts
Seed pods
Sea glass

Sorting balls.Other Loose Parts 

Blocks
Wooden bits
Marbles
Tires
Large pieces of lumber
Buttons
Tubes
PVC pipes
Bottles, cups, jars, buckets
Boxes
Shoes
Rope
Balls
Bowls
Hose cut offs
Dominos
Board game parts
Bike parts
Keys

So let loose with LOOSE PARTS PLAY and watch as your children develop as players and people. 

Lakisha Reid is the owner and educator at Discovery Early Learning Center, co-host of Dirty Playologist Podcast, Keeping it Real with Kisha Podcast, and founder of Play Empowers.

What it Means to Teach Infants and Toddlers

What it Means to Teach Infants and Toddlers

by Carla-Littel-Hildebrand, T.E.A.C.H. Counselor

Have you tried to explain to others outside the early education field what it means to “teach” infants and toddlers? As a fellow teacher, I know we fight against the “babysitter” label and claims that we are not really teaching.

iStock_000019609330XLargeBut the research and our own experiences tell us differently. Teachers of infants and toddlers develop responsive care routines, build a trusting relationship with the child and family, design safe, engaging environments, and create developmentally appropriate experiences that expand learning. Young children require these experiences for healthy brain development.

“The vulnerable baby is dependent on relationships with adults for physical survival, emotional security, a safe base for learning, help with self-regulation, modeling and mentoring social behavior, and information and exchanges about the workings of the world and rules for living.”1

It is truly an awesome, and fast-moving responsibility. Have you ever taken a long weekend or vacation and upon your return, the children in your care have made significant advances in one or more developmental domains? As an Early Head Start Teacher, this is one of my fondest memories. The child that didn’t walk is now trying a few steps.  Another can roll over and yet another child is beginning to use the “baby signs” you have been diligently modeling.

As a reflective caregiver, you observe these milestones and assess the needed environmental changes, create opportunities to scaffold on new learning, and assess the social emotional needs of the children as they embark on skill acquisition.

“If caregivers are mindful of how a child’s whole experience-particularly the emotional tenor-influences the developing brain – they can provide caring relationships that help the child feel secure and open to an engaging world of exploration and learning throughout the early years.”

Teaching infants and toddlers requires a flexibility that is unique, with caregiving taking on the nature of a “dance” – with the teacher encouraging each infant to try out more complex steps so as to master new compositions, beats, and tempos.3

Training with an Infant /Toddler focus

It can be difficult to find training that specifically addresses the needs and concerns of Infant Toddler Teachers. Not at the WECA Conference! WECA has heard your voice and is offering a range of workshops November 10-11, 2017 at Chula Vista.

Pam Bennett and Cheryl Heiman will start us off with an inspirational Early Ed Talk followed by an innovative workshop, “Bebe Café.” We’ll come together for a facilitated conversation, sharing our wisdom, expertise, challenges, concerns, and passions in a collective learning experience.  Don’t miss out on this exceptional opportunity to learn with colleagues and dive deeper into the issues that are most relevant to you as an early childhood teacher.

To find out more and to register go to: http://wisconsinearlychildhood.org/conference/

Citations:
  1. Lally, J., & Mangione, P. (2017, May). Caring Relationships, The Heart of Early Brain Development. NAYEC, 17-23.
  2. Raikes, H. H., & Pope Edwards, C. (2009). Extending the Dance in Infant & Toddler Caregiving. Bear, DE: Paul H. Brookes Publishing Co., Inc.
  3. Bredekamp, S. (2009). Developmentally Appropriate Practice in Early Childhood Programs (C. Copple, Ed.). Washington, DC: NAEYC.

Additional Infant and Toddler Resources:

The Power of STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math)

The Power of STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math)

By Jeanne Labana, WECA Training Coordinator and Master Trainer

IMG_1716Gina Flynn’s classroom at St Robert’s school is alive with activity!   Groups of children have gathered plastic eggs, play dough, measuring tools and Unifix cubes.  One group is rolling the eggs, discussing the way they roll with respect to their shape.  Another group is creating patterns and counting.   Yet another group is stacking the eggs, trying to get height, unsuccessfully. The stacking group spies the play dough and tape and think they might be good binding agents.  They find they need too much play dough to stack very high.  Switching to tape is more difficult and needs more hands but the eggs are now higher. Soon the other groups have also started stacking, formulating plans for how to structure the stack for the best results.  Amid the thoughtful sharing of ideas, attempts and giggles the groups begin to compare the height and width of their projects with the measuring tools.  Meaningful learning is happening, thanks to STEAM.

The STEAM approach captures a child’s natural curiosity and fosters higher-level thinking through planning, reasoning, hypothesizing, predicting, theorizing, etc. For young children this is a vital stage of development.  Research reveals that young children learn most successfully when they are the center of a learning experience that includes physical, linguistic, social-emotional, and knowledge-rich components. When children are active creators of their learning with adults as their guides or facilitators they become excited and engaged.

In teaching, Gina Flynn prioritizes STEAM. In the egg project alone, children are developing skills with counting, adding, subtracting, 3-D design, and physical manipulation of materials. They are also growing their capacities to problem-solve, imagine, listen, work together with others, and persist when faced with difficulty. They are growing their social-emotional skills.

This year, WECA’s Annual Conference features a learning track on STEAM. Save Friday, November 10 and Saturday November 11 – when Gina Flynn and other experts will be sharing theory and practice on STEAM. There will be hands-on examples of activities for you to use – whether you teach infants, toddlers, preschoolers, or kindergartners.   Come!  Let’s learn together! See you at the conference!

Finding Your “Center” in Your Center (or Family Child Care Home)

Finding Your “Center” in Your Center (or Family Child Care Home)

mandala-1875416_960_720by Peggy Haack, T.E.A.C.H. Outreach Coordinator

“I can keep going.” Have you ever used these words as your mantra during an especially long, chaotic, challenging or heartbreaking day with children? Here’s the truth: our jobs can be hard, and yet children and families count on us to be at our best… always! So we need strategies. Wishing our mantra to be true is one such strategy, and there are others. Here are two strategies that relieve stress by helping teachers “find their center”.

Zen Dens
Samantha Anderson and Rosemarie James are teacher-coaches at the Head Start of the Menominee Nation Early Childhood Program. Recently they participated in a training called Trauma Smart to help them help children who are dealing with strong feelings, especially those feelings that arise when children experience trauma. In the training, they were reminded of the importance of self-care as they watched a video by Soul Pancake Entitled “Zen Dens.” Back in their program, they wanted to create a similar area where teachers could re-center and capture the feeling that was embodied on the faces of everyone in the video as they left the Den.

Zen-Garden

Lisa Lyons, head start teacher taking  a zen den break.

Samantha has this to say: “Early childhood teachers often have to handle situations that have variables not controlled by themselves. Crying babies, children with special needs, daily pressures of a classroom… these can raise the stress level of our teachers. Teachers need a way to help release the stress and renew calm in themselves. Calm teachers create calm classrooms enabling a more productive atmosphere.” Together Samantha and Rosemarie created their own “Zen Den.” The teachers have given some very positive feedback about the space and what taking their break now means to them.

Watch the video on Zen Dens and then imagine what such a space might look like in your program, what fits your workspace and style, what sensory inputs would feel just right to help a teacher reclaim her “center” and feeling of well-being. If you want to learn more about Trauma Smart, in this video you will hear teachers talk about the importance of managing their own strong feelings in order to help the children.

Mindfulness Meditation
Emily Hagenmaier is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker whose work has largely focused on parents, helping them manage change and make the adjustments needed to raise children who thrive. Emily has also worked with and on behalf of caregivers. She recognizes that early childhood educators share with parents the very basic goal of supporting children’s social and emotional well-being each and every day. And like parents, we experience how stress can work against our best efforts.

Emily Hagenmaier
Emily Hagenmaier, LCSW, Ginko Tree Counseling, Madison

“Before you can attune to the child’s experience, you need to be attuned to yourself. Then you are able to be a model of compassion and self-regulation for our children. We can’t ask children to do what we can’t do ourselves. That means being in touch with our own feelings and not minimizing them. Have you ever said to a distressed child, “You’re OK” when really you were thinking, “I need you to be OK because I’m not OK with what you’re expressing”?

One strategy that Emily teaches is “mindfulness,” a practice which helps you focus your attention and awareness, and relate to yourself and the children in your care with less judgment and more kindness. She describes this as giving yourself permission to feel what is already there. In this way we take care of ourselves and we suffer less.

Emily offers the following – an audio recording of a mindfulness meditation – as a gift to all caregivers of young children. Allow yourself a few moments to listen, to breathe, and to feel. And then you’ll be better prepared to share your gifts with the children.

A Self-Care Plan
This article from Child Care Information Exchange may provide just what you need to intentionally create your own self-care plan, beginning with this quote by Lauren Quinn, teacher and author: “Take care of yourself.  Your students need you to do this.  Put on your oxygen mask first so your teaching can be a gift of yourself to your students.  They need your mind, body, and soul to be nurtured.  You can’t give to them what you don’t have.”

 

Getting out the door and loving Winter with kids

Getting out the door and loving Winter with kids

winter-1By Emily Sonnemann, family childcare provider 

“Snow pants first!” the children all shout as they excitedly run towards their cubbies and begin to toss six sets of coats, hats, mittens, boots and snow pants into a big heap. As the giant heap of gear begins to sort itself out I can hear them encouraging each other, gently reminding about the best order in which to put on their winter gear – snow pants first, next … boots or your coat, a hat and at last your mittens.  “Can you start my zipper?” the first one yells.  Yep!” I reply as I take boots off the youngest child’s hands and place snow pants out for her to try. There are lots of grunts, furrowed brows, concentrating faces, insistent cries of “Can you help me please?!” and “Never mind! I got it! I did it! Look! I got my zipper all by myself!” This can be a good 20- minute plus exercise in figuring things out, working through frustrations, practicing patience, helping and encouraging others and themselves. It is exhausting and it is invigorating. The process gets a little easier each time and here’s the good news: it always ends with success and the rewards of getting outside.  They are a determined, resilient and eager bunch! “Good job everybody!” I cheer as I scramble to get my own winter gear on before someone gets undressed. “Snow pants first!” they shout back at me. The smiles and joy and laughter and adventures that lay on the other side of the door – those are the reasons why we go outside in the winter!

Getting out the door really is the biggest obstacle to loving winter with kids.  Once you’re out the door on a snowy morning it’s like a giant playground made of chilly white play dough. The possibilities are endless and with six little imaginations, we have hours of entertainment at our fingertips no matter the conditions.  We like to build snow forts and snow people. winter2croppedWe go sledding on the neighborhood hill. We make frozen ice shapes with old bundt pans and ice globes by filling punching balloons. We paint snow with water and food coloring. We shovel the neighbors’ sidewalks and driveways. We keep the bird feeder full, follow animal footprints in the snow, look for evidence of the neighborhood beaver, monitor the changing seasons and the changing conditions of the Yahara River and Lake Monona. We make and eat snow ice cream. We use sticks to write letters and make designs in the snow. We ice skate at the local outdoor ice rink or any patch of ice we can find. We look for any crunchy ice to stomp on and for fluffy snowballs to toss. Every day is different and new! Learning and – most importantly – joy abounds in the great outdoors, even in winter. So, bundle yourself up, get outside with kids and find your own adventure! The possibilities are endless, fun is around every corner – just follow those little boot prints into the magical world of winter play!

Tips for Parents: 

  • winter-4croppedSee the whole process as worthwhile. Getting out in winter time can feel overwhelming. It’s cold, slippery, wet…  It’s often easier to find excuses rather than taking on the battle of dressing little ones. It’s a process worth taking the time to engage in. There are a number of skills that your child builds competence in just with the process of learning to get dressed for the weather.
  • Invest in warm winter gear, especially mittens that stay dry inside.  There’s no such thing as bad weather, just poor clothing choices.  Dress in layers.  Winter gear doesn’t have to be expensive; hand-me-downs abound since gear usually only fits for one season. Look for waterproof things and mittens with extra-long cuffs that can tuck into coat sleeves.  Don’t forget about yourself! Find winter gear for yourself so you don’t get cold before the kids are done playing!
  • Impart a love of nature and the great outdoors.  Speak positively about the possibilities and fun of winter.  Before you know it, even the most hesitant will be deep in the snow and smiling ear to ear.
  • Learn a winter sport together as a family! Try cross-country skiing, downhill skiing, snowshoeing, ice skating or biking. It can be a lot of fun to learn something new together!
  • Check local parks, state parks and natural areas for winter events such as candle lit hikes and skiing or other winter programing. Offerings are typically family friendly, educational and loads of fun.

Emily is now in her fourth year of owning and running her family child care business.  She lives and plays with her husband and two children on Madison’s near East side.  

 

The Five Whys

The Five Whys

Stephanie Harrison

Stephanie Harrison, CEO, Wisconsin Primary Health Care Association. Executive Member Wisconsin Partners

In health care, we recognize the vital importance of early childhood education on long-term health and well-being. As we seek to eliminate health disparities and ensure that everyone in Wisconsin achieves their highest health potential, we must pay attention to brain development in our infants and toddlers if we are going to create long-lasting change in the health of the population.

One strategy is to include early childhood education in our quality improvement processes. For example, one of the tools we use is “The Five Whys” – a technique from the Six Sigma framework. When facing a systemic problem, asking “why” five different times assists in getting to the root cause.

Here’s an example of the technique:

1. Why is our county doing so poorly in the County Health Rankings?

Because a high percentage of people are living in poverty.

2. Why are a high percentage of people living in poverty?

Because the high school graduation rate is low and young people can’t access living-wage jobs that fit the education they have.

3. Why is the high school graduation rate low?

Because a significant number of students need remedial education services and struggle with  emotional and social difficulties that make completing school difficult.

4.Why do a significant number of students need remedial education and struggle with  emotional and social difficulties?

Because they did not get a firm foundation in these skills between infancy and age five  –  when their brains are undergoing the most significant development.

5. Why didn’t they get a firm foundation in these skills in their early education?

Because their families couldn’t afford high-quality early education.

The connection of health status to early childhood
The UW Population Health Institute  has shown that much of our health is actually about our behaviors and social and economic factors, like education and employment. As we ask why even more, we can trace things like poor health, smoking, substance abuse, graduation from high school, and employment back to the foundations for language, vocabulary, and socialization that are built in early childhood. In fact, the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University notes that disparities start to show up around 18 months of age.  This is particularly evident in vocabulary. In response, many community health centers in Wisconsin participate in the Reach Out and Read program as a way of getting health care providers to urge parents to read regularly to their kids – thereby providing a more language-rich environment for their children.

If we are serious about making our state a healthier place, we need to pay more attention to the education that our children are receiving at home and at childcare centers in their earliest days and years.

By Stephanie Harrison, CEO, Wisconsin Primary Health Care Association. Executive Member Wisconsin Partners