Mother and father, caregivers are a baby’s first trainer

It’s fall — a time for families to help children prepare for school success. It’s a critical time for developmental play and learning for children of all ages, especially those from prenatal to age 5.

Research shows that a child’s brain develops more before age 5 than any other time. Experiences in the first few years of life help shape how the brain develops. This early brain growth has vast long-term impacts on educational success. Getting a young child ready for school begins long before they enter a classroom.

School readiness includes the physical, social, emotional and cognitive skills a child needs to be successful when they start school. When children enter the classroom prepared and ready for kindergarten, they are twice as likely to read at grade level in the third grade and four times less likely to drop out of high school.

That’s why parents and caregivers in Oklahoma need to know about and take advantage of the free, local resource that exists here in our state called Early Birds. Early Birds, a signature program of Smart Start, is a family support, education and school readiness program for parents and caregivers of children from prenatal to 5 years old. The goal of Early Birds is to empower parents and caregivers as their child’s first and most influential teachers by developing parenting, school readiness and life skills.

Early Birds is provided at no cost to families, features evidence-based curriculum and was created by Oklahomans specifically for the needs of Oklahoma families. It provides instruction, learning activities, community resources and permanently places STEAM kits full of educational tools, toys and books into families’ homes to stimulate development and learning. Families can attend a series of 16 classes beginning when they are expecting a baby, followed by age-specific classes three times per year until their child turns five. There are currently more than a dozen flourishing Early Birds partnerships in schools and nonprofits across Oklahoma. With virtual program offerings, families can access Early Birds anywhere in the state.

Ninety-nine percent of families that have participated with Early Birds better understand how important their job as a parent/caregiver is, 99% are better prepared to support their child, and 98% would recommend Early Birds to a friend. I want to make sure all families and caregivers in Oklahoma know the importance of early childhood education. I invite you to become an Early Birds family. Parents and caregivers of young children have the opportunity to get a jumpstart on their child’s education and feel empowered to serve as their first and most influential teacher.

Families can learn more about Early Birds and sign up for upcoming classes at Signups are open now for fall virtual and in-person class dates.

Sandy Cotton is the executive director of Smart Start Central Oklahoma.

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