Infant Years Critical For School Preparation Says LSU AgCenter Family Life Expert

Diane Sasser  |  7/14/2005 2:38:24 AM

2005 Back-to-school News

You may think your infant is too young to prepare for school, but the first three years form the foundation for your child’s success in school, according to LSU AgCenter family life professor Dr. Diane D. Sasser.

"As your child’s first teacher, it is important to understand that your child’s early attachments to caring adults have a critical impact on brain development," Sasser says.

"Providing the security of a loving parent, safety in the home or child care environment and attention to health through proper nutrition and checkups are as critical to your baby’s growth as learning ABCs and 123s," Sasser adds.

The family development expert offers guidelines for your youngster’s healthy growth and preparation for school.

• Respond to your baby’s clues. A baby communicates distress through crying. When the caregiver or parents respond by answering, the baby’s stress response system turns off and the brain cells work jointly and teach the infant how to calm itself.

• Give attention, love and affection. Touching simulates the brain to release hormones that are critical for growth.

• Read, talk and sing. Describing what you do to your baby is the foundation of your child’s later learning. For example, as you change your infant’s diaper, explain what you are doing. "Now Mom is pulling the tabs off the baby’s diaper," or "Dad is heating the bottle so you can eat."

Early conversations help develop the speech and language part of your child’s brain even if the child can’t understand what you are saying. Reading, talking and singing promotes the closeness of you and your baby. Picture books are excellent learning tools for reading to infants.

• Set a schedule. Babies need routines to understand their world and to know what to expect from it. Babies who have been exposed to a schedule in their early childhood do better in school.

• Be cautious in television viewing. Children learn more from live human beings than television. Some TV programs can alter a baby’s images since a child cannot differentiate reality from fantasy.

• Use self-control to teach rather than yelling, punishing or spanking the child. Give an explanation to why something shouldn’t be done. "If you draw on the wall, it will be too hard to clear it off" will help your child to learn the consequences of his behavior than "NO! Don’t do that!" A child is impulsive and will try to "test the waters." The child is not deliberately trying to "get your goat." It’s part of learning.

• Discover your child’s uniqueness. Your child’s self-esteem reflects your attitude.

• Select quality child care. A better child-care facility can increase your child’s learning and encourage the development of social skills. Be sure to ask many questions and take an interest in the school, Try to get involved in the center’s activities. When looking for the right center, look at how the caregivers interact with the other children.

• Take time for yourself. Make sure that you have time for you. Your child will identify that you are tired, stressed or depressed. Reach out for help from family and friends when you need a break. Being your child’s first teacher is a tough but important job.

For information on related family and consumer topics, click on the Family and Home link at the LSU AgCenter Web site at www.lsuagcenter.com. For local information and educational programs, contact an extension agent in your parish LSU AgCenter office.

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On the Internet: LSU AgCenter: http://www.lsuagcenter.com/

Source: Diane D. Sasser (225) 578-4448, or Dsasser@agcenter.lsu.edu

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