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Research has proven that nearly 90 percent of the brain is developed by age five and the first 1,000 days (or by age three) are a vital time to invest in a child's development growth. Experts from The Harvard Center on the Developing Child confirm there is no other time in a human's life when the brain will develop with such speed or intricacy. Brain development from birth to age five will determine how children grow, learn and interact with others for the rest of their lives. For this reason, it is vital for all caregivers of young children to understand the critical role they play in providing high-quality early learning experiences.

Recognizing the impact of childhood development from birth to age five, the Michigan Association for the Education of Young Children (MiAEYC) first named April the Month of the Young Child in 1971. Other state chapters soon followed suit, resulting in communities across the nation celebrating this observance through meaningful activities over the past 50 years.

In support of early childhood development, the Month of the Young Child features a special calendar of activities for parents, schools and children. Structured on a weekly basis, this calendar focuses explicitly on nurturing and advocating for children during these critical years. Each weekly guide is designed to be easy for parents to implement fun learning activities to help their children grow and learn.

Week 1: Physical Development

This week of observance focuses on physical development. Suggested activities include increasing physical activity through exercise and play, making nutritious and tasty meals, having a recommended car seat, and following healthy sleep practices. It is also essential to monitor the child in reaching certain milestones, including physical balance and coordination, strength and endurance, and attention and alertness. Experts recommend developing these skills through fun outdoor activities, April brings warm enough weather that parents will want to get the whole family involved.

Week 2: Social and Emotional Development

The following week of observance encourages the child's direct involvement in social and emotional development. Suggested activities include encouraging the child to express feelings through words, drawing, or other forms of art. Experts encourage parents to recognize the child's effort through open praise, feedback, and acknowledgment. Making a point to offer choices, even in the smallest of areas, can raise a child's sense of agency and interpersonal development expression.

Week 3: Cognitive Development

The third week of observance emphasizes cognitive development. Recommended activities include recognizing visual patterns, practicing problem-solving, and identifying words, letters, and numbers. Parents can also allow their children to create open-ended projects using recognizable colors, tools, and shapes.

Week 4: Language and Literacy Skills Development

The final week of observance focuses on empowering children with communication skills. Recommended activities include reading aloud, singing, and learning new nursery rhymes and finger-plays.

Recognizing the results-driven success of the Month of the Young Child, the National Association of the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) expanded upon the idea and officially recognized the final week of April as the Week of the Young Child (WOYC). If parents choose to follow this model, suggested activities include the following:

Musical Monday:

Encourage a child's joyful expression while potentially increasing aptitude for math, language, and literacy. Singing, dancing, and playing small instruments help with brain development, increasing recognition of patterns and rhythm, and improves coordination.

Tasty Tuesday:

Use this day to make child-friendly recipes together. Counting and mixing ingredients teach children about math, science, nutrition, and healthy eating habits. Cooking with colorful seasonal foods can also encourage the recognition of standard rainbow colors.

Work-Together Wednesday:

Encourage social and interpersonal skills by building something together. Examples include creating a fort, igloo, or clubhouse together.

Tactile Thursday:

Strengthen cognitive development and hand-eye coordination through a tactile art project. Suggestions include paper mâché or finger painting.

Family Friday:

Take pictures together and share family stories to help the child feel secure in the family unit.

In support of the Month of the Young Child, the Warren Center (TWC) contributes to the future of young children by offering a host of programs and services. For example, TWC's Early Childhood Intervention (ECI) programs provide targeted therapy for children ages birth to three years. These services include therapy in communication, motor skills, and sensory processing. Similarly, TWC's Clinical Therapy Services program provides comprehensive evaluation and therapy for children ages three to five years old. The Family Education and Support (FES) has a full range of workshops and support meetings that can help you make the most of the Month of the Young Child.

The Month of the Young Child is a registered service mark of the Michigan Association for the Education of Young Children (MiAEYC). The Week of the Young Child (WOYC) is a registered service mark of the National Association of the Education of Young Children (NAEYC).

The Warren Center is a nonprofit agency providing professional evaluations, therapy services and support to children with developmental delays and disabilities. The center serves over 1,000 children each week as well as their families. Services include speech, occupational and physical therapy; developmental services; and nutrition as well as family education and support. The Early Childhood Intervention Program serves the entire northern half of Dallas County in 48 ZIP codes. Founded in 1968, 2018 marked The Warren Center’s 50th anniversary. For more information, please visit https://www.thewarrencenter.org or follow The Warren Center on Facebook and Twitter.

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