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5 Priority Practices for Parents, Teachers, and Caregivers

Lab News

It’s easy for today’s teachers and parents to feel like just when they have mastered the latest must-do for young children that it’s quickly replaced with the next big thing. With an ever-growing maze of questions and advice for teaching and parenting, they are often left overwhelmed and unsure about who to listen to and what matters most.

Research shows that positive interactions between adults and children have a profound impact on children’s learning – but what do these interactions really look like? How do adults respond to children in ways that encourage growth and develop positive attitudes about how they interact with others and learn from the world around them? How can early childhood systems and strategies be aligned to support adults to build the mindsets and skills they need to support children and make the biggest difference?

At the Early Learning Lab, we engaged more than 30 leading early childhood researchers and program implementers to come together and identify what research is telling us are the most important practices to build the skills and competencies children need to thrive. Through this engagement, we identified the following five clear and simple evidence-based practices that any parent, teacher, or caregiver can use to guide young children’s learning and growth.

1 Provide rich learning activities that build on the child’s interest: Create a world of wonder by knowing what a child is excited about – extend learning using natural interests. 

2 Read, sing, and tell stories: Use a variety of sounds, words, melodies, and rhythms to “bathe” or immerse children in language.

3 Know the stage of a child’s development and what comes next: Offer just the right amount of practice and challenge. 

4 Create nurturing relationships and use positive guidance:Provide warmth and support, teach positive behavior, and prevent rather than punish challenging behaviors.

5 Be responsive and expand verbal and non-verbal communication: Build connections in a child’s brain through back and forth turn-taking, which supports language development and healthy bonds.

The Lab has shared these practices with others – not as a replacement for existing training – but as a way to focus on which interactions and skills to prioritize. We hope these target practices will drive clearer design and evaluation of early childhood programs and investments.