There are only 1,825 days between a child’s birth and the first day of kindergarten. There is a large body of evidence telling us that what happens during this time has a tremendous impact on a child’s readiness for school and later success in life.
The evidence points to the importance of high quality early care and learning for all children.
What happens when children receive quality early care and learning in the first five years? The 700 new brain connections that are formed every second in the first few years do so in such a way that a strong foundation is built for later learning, behavior, and health.
Children are ready for kindergarten, performing better than peers on measures of thinking, language, social, and emotional skills. Children who attend quality preschools have higher high school graduation rates and are more likely to attend college. As adults, they are more likely to own homes, have jobs, and receive better pay.
How do you find quality care in your community? First, do some research. ABC Quality (www.abcqualitycare.org) and S.C. Department of Social Services (www.scchildcare.org) offer checklists for quality and other parent resources. You will be able to search for quality early learning centers in your area, find a center’s quality ratings, and look at complaints and deficiencies.
S.C. Child Care Resource and Referral (www.sc-ccrr.org) offers specialists to answer questions and help you find what you need, making child care provider referrals. Next, call area centers and ask hard questions: What is the educational level of the teacher in my child’s classroom? What is the teacher-to-child ratio and the group size? How many teachers will my child have during the day? After you’ve narrowed your search, visit.
Make an appointment the first time, and ask for and read the parent handbook. Observe in classrooms and watch the way teachers interact with each other and the children. Do they look happy? Are children engaged in activities or with each other? Walk out to the playground and see if it is properly supervised. Is there sufficient equipment, and is it in good repair? Then go back another time unannounced to see if the visits compare.
Quality early care and learning centers are making life-long differences for children in S.C. Do your research and find one for your child; it will be one of the best gifts you can give.
And remember, we only have 1,825 days before your newborn starts kindergarten; let’s partner together to do our best for them until then.
The writer is director of Child Development Ministry of First United Methodist Church in Myrtle Beach.