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The “Early Years Opportunity” Building a Healthy Foundation

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1 The “Early Years Opportunity” Building a Healthy Foundation
1 The “Early Years Opportunity” Building a Healthy Foundation

2 Hosting Notes Early Years Parent Café Goal:
To build awareness and capacity of parents and caregivers in support of early childhood development through: strengthened awareness of “the core story” and the early years opportunities. fostering relationships, connections and mutual support by bringing people together in dialogue. validating the current knowledge and capacity of parents and caregivers by creating a space for sharing of successes and challenges. highlighting and sharing available resources and supports. learning together to support capacity building that inspires further learning and action.

3 The Early Years Opportunity Conversation Overview
2 Hopes and dreams for your child? Why are the early years so important? How can an understanding of development and the early years help you in your role as a parent? What are your reactions after learning about early brain development? What kind of experiences are most important to a child’s development? Education for Communities, Communities for Education

4 Hosting Notes What do you hope to take away from these discussions? Are there are other questions about early years development parents would like to discuss? Suggestion: Use a flipchart/blackboard/newsprint on table/ to record these questions and revisit them at the end of the session. Invite parents to offer questions throughout the conversation. Explore: Start the conversation by asking parents/caregivers to share something about their child(ren), or share something their child has most recently learned.

5 What brought you here today?
3 What brought you here today? Explore: What motivated you to take time out from your busy life?

6 Hosting Notes There are many reasons that parents/caregivers have for taking the time to learn about their child… Suggestions: Something motivated parents to be here – take the time to find out what they would like to get from these conversations. Make a point of letting all parents be heard. Validate parents efforts and commitment to their child by being here. Emphasize the shared interest among the group in their children – talking with other adults offers a great support and chance to share knowledge and experience.

7 4 What are your hopes and dreams for your child’s future? …for all of the children in your community? Explore: How are you supporting your child to reach these dreams?

8 Caring leads to action…
Hosting Notes Caring leads to action… Examples from parents: to have many opportunities to be happy and well adjusted to love learning Others? Focusing on the possibilities creates energy and excitement for the future… Dreaming helps to focus on the amazing possibilities ahead. When people connect to the heart they find the motivation to act. By setting the stage with this question for a casual and open conversation, parents feel comfortable and supported to speak honestly.

9 Why are the early years so important?
5 Why are the early years so important? Explore: How are young children in our province are doing? Examine the Early Childhood Mapping Project results.

10 The early years of a child’s life are so important because…
Hosting Notes The early years of a child’s life are so important because… Examples: Children learn to walk and talk. They build the skills they need to be ready for school. It is the time they learn most, more than any other time in their life! Children learn basic social skills at a young age. Others? A child’s growth and development in the early years lays a foundation for healthy development. The 5 domains of development (as measured in Alberta) by the EDI instrument as part of the EC mapping project are: Physical well-being Social competence Emotional maturity Language and thinking skills Communication and general knowledge Many children are on track with their development, but did you know? Almost 1 in 3 children in Calgary are experiencing difficulty in 1 or more domains of development. The good news is that 11 coalitions are now working to improve early years opportunities across Calgary and area as part of the First 2000 Days Network. “It takes a community to raise a child.”

11 6 Explore together a short video from Alberta Family Wellness Initiative: How Brains are built: The Core Story of Brain Development Explore: What are your reactions? What strikes you the most?

12 The foundation for a healthy brain is built in the early years!
Hosting Notes The foundation for a healthy brain is built in the early years! Key messages on brain development: Brains aren’t just born but are built over time based on our experiences! Brains, just like houses, are built from the bottom up. A solid brain foundation supports all future development, a base for a lifetime of good mental function and better overall health. “Serve and return” interactions between caregivers and young children are the “bricks” that build and maintain a healthy brain! Stress can shape brain architecture and development. Some stress is positive, but “toxic”, or prolonged severe stress, without the protection of a loving caregiver can leave a child at risk for a life of health and developmental problems and even addiction. It is far easier and more effective to “get things right the first time”! Sturdy brain architecture supports the development of basic social and emotional skills. Emotional regulation and executive function skills, like an “air-traffic-control system”, are a necessity for positive mental health and need to be geared up as soon as possible!

13 7 Explore together a short video from the Center on the Developing Child, Harvard University: Experiences Build Brain Architecture Explore: How do you feel about the opportunity to support this amazing time of learning and development?

14 During this amazing time of learning and development:
Hosting Notes During this amazing time of learning and development: Babies’ brains is born ready to learn. Most of the neurons, or nerve cells have been formed but few of the connections are yet made between them. These connections (synapses) form the pathways (brain circuits) that connect one area of the brain to another, as areas of the brain develop and specialize, allowing us to do most of what we can do. Enormous numbers of connections are formed in a child’s brain. The brain then begins “pruning”, or eliminating some synapses and strengthening others in order to be more efficient. Connections and pruning of synapses and neural circuits are dependent on experiences. The lower areas of the brain are more mature at birth - that’s why newborns can breath, sleep, cry and feed. The higher areas, where conscious thinking, feeling, remembering and voluntary actions come from are still under construction. Development of different brain areas occurs in a sequential pattern. More basic skills are learned first and built on with more complex skills. Early brain development impacts all areas of adult life: Foundational skills in all areas of development (physical or motor skills, social, emotional, thinking and language skills) are all learned in the first 2000 days!

15 8 How can an understanding of development and the early years help you in your role as a parent? From whom and where can you find out more about how children develop? Explore: What do you know about early development? *What Albertans Know… survey

16 An understanding of early childhood development can:
Hosting Notes An understanding of early childhood development can: Inspire us to make the most of this opportunity Inform choices about safety, appropriate experiences Build awareness and reduce stress and frustration for parent and child by informing realistic expectations for behavior and development Inform parents of what to expect, i.e.: sequence in which skills are learned follows a predictable pattern - foundational skills are built upon with more complex skills (i.e. hold up head before sitting, standing, walking and running!). This applies to physical and thinking skills, language and social and emotional skills, with each impacting the other realms. Development doesn’t happen at a steady pace and temporary “set backs” are common. Periods of "disequilibrium”, the "out-of-balance" times that happen just before a child enters a new developmental phase, is an "out-of-sorts" phase that can occur just before learning something new. Inform parents when to ask for help and look for resources if they have a concern, as developmental milestones give information about age range that most children will acquire a new skill. Inspire celebration, wonder and excitement for everyday miracles of learning, growth and development. Find our more from: Parent Link Centres First 2000 Days - EC Map Healthy Parents – Healthy Children Family physicians Other parents and family Public Health Centres

17 9 Reflecting on what we have shared today, what are some ways you are supporting your child’s development? Explore: Are there some everyday experiences that you had not thought of as supporting healthy development?

18 Parents are supporting healthy development by:
Hosting Notes Parents are supporting healthy development by: Meeting the physical needs of the child, providing good nutrition, rest and protection from harm. Their interactions and relationship with their child. i.e. comforting a crying child, spending time together, playing peek-a-boo, answering “why” questions… Providing time and opportunities for exploration, discovery and play. i.e. “tummy time”, building with blocks, make believe play, bath time Opportunities to rehearse and practice newly acquired skills that then build and extend to the next. Brains are built bottom up with skills building one on another. Repetition is important - remember it is necessary for strong brain connections! Developmentally appropriate experiences, with developmentally reasonable expectations.

19 10 After our discussion today, would you like to set a goal or try something new to? Explore: What would you like to share with another parent or caregiver?

20 Great ideas from parents:
Hosting Notes Great ideas from parents: Examples: Find my coalition contact for the EC Map project in my area and find out what’s happening in neighborhood. Check out resources at the Parent Link centre. Share some of what I learned with other parents at playgroup. Others? Reminder: provide any follow up information requested… Read more: Check the accompanying resources for recommendations!

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