Wed04162014

Opinion

Summer ripe with possibilities for early childhood development

by Tarrin McGhee
Special to the Tri-State Defender

The annual observance of Memorial Day serves as a gentle reminder that summer is right around the corner.

During this time of year, adults and children of all ages relish thoughts of long-awaited opportunities to enjoy extended periods of daylight, playtime, rest and relaxation.

In the few short weeks before summer starts, parents across America will also find themselves pondering the same question: How to keep the kids occupied for the next three months?

For those with school-age children, the answers are easier to find. Summer camp, sporting activities, and visits with extended family are all popular summer past-times.

However, it can be a bit more challenging for parents with younger children to identify ways to keep their little ones entertained and more importantly, eager and ready to start kindergarten.

To give Mid-South families with children ages three and younger a head start on this task, The Urban Child Institute has prepared a list of recommended outings and activities that are both fun and educational.

Tour a Museum

From the time a child is born, the sights, sounds, colors, and shapes he encounters are shaping the way his brain grows and develops. A trip to the Children's Museum of Memphis, the Stax Museum of American Soul Music, or other museums around town can help you introduce your child to new and positive experiences that promote brain development.

Go downtown

Learning opportunities for young children are available in just about every corner of the city, but they're especially plentiful downtown. Visiting the historic Peabody Hotel to see the famous duck walk, riding the Main Street Trolley, and spending a day at the Mud Island River Park are just a few examples.

Play outdoors

Playing promotes development of cognitive, social and emotional skills in young children. Outdoor recreational activities are abundant in the summer months: the Memphis Zoo, Shelby Farms Park, the Wolf River Trails, the Greenline, and My Big Backyard at the Memphis Botanical Gardens are excellent venues where young children can spend time playing with peers and learning about nature.

Read

Early language and literacy abilities are an important part of kindergarten readiness. Get a library card or sign up with Books from Birth for free to help your child develop a love for reading and story telling early on. According to The Urban Child Institute, story time strengthens language, literacy and thinking skills. By reading to a young child, you can help ensure that he is well prepared when school begins.

Visit your neighborhood elementary school

It's never too early to help a child become excited about learning. Taking your little one to visit the school that she will soon attend can be a fun way to help prepare her for the journey ahead.

The Urban Child Institute's "Kindergarten Readiness Begins at Birth" parenting guide explains in depth how engaging in activities such as these can greatly improve a young child's potential to succeed in the classroom.

This summer, parents should take advantage of these opportunities to strengthen the foundation for their child's future achievement and success.

(The New Tri-State Defender has partnered with The Urban Child Institute to make sure every child has the best chance for optimal brain development during the critical first three years of each child's life. This is one in a series of stories and columns in our campaign.)

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