Q: My child is 2 years old. I am already thinking about kindergarten. It is only 3 years away. How do I get my child ready?
A: Positive experiences both at home and away from home (in a day care) from the time a child is born are critical for school preparedness and eventual life success. Having tummy time on the carpet floor, reading a book to your child before bed, taking her to the park and providing safe playtime are all part of getting them ready for their first day in kindergarten.
Last July, the American Academy of pediatrics (AAP) put out a policy statement (a wish list) outlining how pediatricians can help children get the best early education possible before kids start kindergarten. The wish list is also for mom and dads as it is based on the belief that every experience in a child’s life from birth will help shape their intelligence, their brain development and language acquisition, and even their ability to solve problems or control their emotions.
These experiences have to do with a child’s health and safety. They include on-time vaccination, good eating habits and good hygiene practices, hand-washing with soap and teeth-brushing twice a day, a smoke-free environment, having qualified and consistent caregivers at a home or in day care facilities, and having qualified staffs for our kids with special needs as they may have specific care plans for their nutrition and their medication regimen.
However, for many of our families, high-quality early birth-to-kindergarten (B-to-K) education is often unattainable. Nursery schools, day care and preschool programs can be expensive. Many of our families use their neighbors or family members. This is especially true for children from disadvantaged backgrounds, kids with behavioral problems and for kids with special needs. For parents who cannot afford licensed day care facilities, before entrusting a child to a neighbor, one can still make sure the home is safe and there are enough adults to supervise the children.
A great number of kids with behavior problems get expelled from early education programs. There is not enough funding at the federal and local state levels to care for the needs of those who cannot afford to pay. So parents and pediatricians have to become advocates for these children as there are frequently alternative resources available.
In truth, B-to-K education is as critical as K-12 education. From birth, as a child develops, every positive experience counts, every day counts to help with school readiness as every positive experience will help with readiness for the first day in kindergarten.
Vernat Exil is a Pediatric cardiologist at UNM. Please send your questions to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.