Parents, caregivers, and teachers all want to support young children’s learning and wellbeing, but the reality is that it can be difficult to find enough time and sort through an overwhelming amount of advice.
To help provide some simple and clear guidance, we worked with more than 30 early childhood researchers and leaders to pinpoint the most important ways to help children build the skills they need to thrive—especially when everyone is so short on time.
We identified the following evidence-based practices that any parent, teacher, or caregiver can use to support the whole child.
1 Explore what interests your child: When a child is interested in something, exploring it more helps to develop their curiosity, independence, and love of learning.
- Create a world of wonder by tuning into what your child is excited about—extend learning using those natural interests
- Ask open-ended questions and use descriptive language to deepen thinking
- Build on naturally occurring curiosity and exploration
- Infuse math, science, literacy, creativity, and movement into everyday activities
2 Love and guide: Showing love with kisses, cuddles, eye contact, and the sound of your voice helps children to learn to manage their feelings and behavior.
- Provide warmth and support, teach positive behavior, and prevent rather than punish challenging behaviors
- Establish routines to create clear expectations, predictability, and security
- Tell children what to do vs. what not to do
- When children are struggling, redirect to another activity and help them understand what happened
3 Go back and forth: Talking and playing back and forth is a powerful way to encourage children’s language, emotional, and social skill development.
- Build connections in your child’s brain through back and forth turn-taking, which supports language development and healthy bonds
- Strive for two-way interactions in verbal or non-verbal communication
- Check in with children to communicate that you understand their intent
- Pause and listen when waiting for a response
4 Read, sing, and tell stories: Doing a variety of reading, singing, and storytelling builds children’s speech, vocabulary, and comprehension skills, and their imagination!
- Use a variety of sounds, words, melodies, and rhythms to “bathe” or immerse children in language
- Use music and books to calm, excite, emphasize, teach, reinforce, practice
- Use rhyming words or words with similar sounds in fun ways
- Make up stories and songs; tell or sing them over and over
Easy Ways to Make the Most out of Everyday Activities
Everyday routines and activities offer many opportunities to support young children’s learning and growth. In fact, even small moments and interactions with children can lead to big benefits.
Here is just one example of fun, simple ways to use the strategies above and support children’s healthy development in everyday moments—all with just one toy or what you already have in your home. See the blocks activity.