By Guest Blogger Susan Shore Schwartz 

For parents, life has changed dramatically in the last few weeks. Many are now home all day, trying to find the right balance between educating and entertaining their children while sheltering in place.

While older children may have assigned schoolwork to do to help keep their brains active, this is also a great time to engage with younger children and help prepare them for school and for life. Research shows that 80% of a child’s brain growth happens before the age of three. Everyday interactions between young children, their parents and siblings and other caregivers provide opportunities to support this development.

Developed by leading brain scientists at Harvard University, the Basics are five, fun, free and simple things that can have a lasting impact on a child’s brain development—and be done without leaving your house!

The Basics are:

Maximize Love, Manage Stress

Infants and toddlers thrive when their world seems loving, safe and predictable. When you express love and respond to their needs, you teach children that they can count on you.

Over time, showing and responding to love helps children learn to manage their feelings. As they grow, feeling secure gives children the confidence they need to explore, learn and take on life’s challenges.

Young children are affected by your emotions, both good and bad. While there is a lot of uncertainty right now, it is important to find ways to cope with stress. Caring for yourself benefits your child.

Talk, Sing and Point

Babies learn language from the moment they are born. To a newborn baby, speech is just sound. Then, day by day, they learn that sounds have meaning. Every time you talk, sing or point to what you are talking about, you provide clues to the meaning of what you are saying.

As your child develops, talking with them and answering their questions is a way to teach them about the world. By talking with them, you will also get to know more about the fascinating person they are becoming!

Count, Group and Compare

Becoming good at math begins long before a child enters school. Even babies can do simple math, such as noticing patterns. Toddlers love learning math through games, such as comparing sizes and shapes. These concepts help them make sense of the world.

You can help your child learn math as you play and talk together during everyday moments. By building on their natural skills and interests, you will boost their brain development and prepare them to do well in school.

Explore Through Movement and Play

Movement and play are good for children’s coordination, strength and overall health. They are also how children explore and learn about the world. Each stage of development comes with new opportunities. For example, an infant might explore by touching, grasping, chewing or crawling. A toddler might explore by walking or climbing.

Young children are like scientists—curious and excited to explore their surroundings. See where your child’s curiosity takes them. The more you pay attention, the more you will learn about what interests them.

Read and Discuss Stories

The more we read with young children, the more likely they are to enjoy reading and do well in school. With infants, spend time daily looking at books and talking to your child about the pictures they see. As your child gets older, you can ask them questions about what is happening in the story.

Stories expose children to words and ideas that they would not otherwise experience. Books teach children to use their imaginations. What they learn about people, places and things can be important building blocks to later life success. For both parents and children, times together with books form fond and lasting memories.

To learn more about the Basics and watch videos on how to use these fun, free and simple things in your everyday life, visit or follow us on Facebook or Instagram @guilfordbasics.

Today’s author, Susan Shore Schwartz, is the executive director of The Cemala Foundation and co-chair of Ready for School, Ready for Life which partnered to bring the Basics to Guilford County.


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