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Kids are explorers. The entire world is unknown territory to them, from the strange insects crawling around outdoors to the task of tying their own shoelaces. As the first and most important adults in their lives, you have a remarkable opportunity to guide - and to teach - your children about their world.
Research by the U.S. Department of Education has shown that it's especially important in the first three years of your child's life. During these years, children are especially sensitive to their environment; positive and negative experiences influence them much more than they do later in life. What happens in these years has more effect on how successful children are later on than anything else.
This doesn't mean that you should break out the flashcards for your two-year-old. Instead, you should consider how to create a nurturing environment for your young children, and how to continue to support your children as they grow.
Here are some thoughts on creating a nurturing environment for your children:
- Young children are fascinated by the basic rules of the world. These seem obvious to us now, but to a young child, nothing can be taken for granted: for instance, that things stay where they are even when a kid's eyes are closed. Simple games like peekaboo help teach these rules.
- Try to constantly give your children new experiences. Keep their world lively with new things they can investigate, but also be careful to avoid overwhelming them. This guideline is true for children of any age: for a young child, being able to play with your keys might be a new and interesting experience. For an older child, it might be a trip to a museum.
- Your support is just as important when your children enter school. The only difference is that you now have some partners to work with to help educate your children.
Acting as your child's first teacher is probably something you've done as a parent without realizing it. But it's important to be conscious of how important your work is, and that your efforts should continue as your child grows.
For more information on becoming your child's first teacher, try one of these links:
- The U.S. Department of Education pamphlet "Including Your Child" is a great comprehensive resource on supporting your child through her early years.
- FamilyTLC has a good article that explains early child psychology from a down-to-earth, straightforward point of view.
- Rigby offers a collection of activities for primary and intermediate grade children.