SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Children’s brains grow the most before they start kindergarten. That’s why KSL is introducing 5B45, a statewide early childhood development campaign designed to give parents the resources they need to prepare their kids for the future. As one Utah mom knows, it all starts at home.
Lindsay Wade has her hands full with four little kids. She has an 8-year-old daughter, Paisley, 5-year-old daughter, Ava, and one-year-old twin boys named Nixon and Beaux.
“Oh, I cried! I just knew how hard one baby was and even when I had one baby, I’d be like, ‘How do moms do twins? This is a lot of work!” Wade said.
Despite her shock, she says it’s been a rewarding experience.
“It has actually been amazing!” Wade said.
In just a year, she said her boys have grown so much.
“Oh, they are like sponges,” Wade said. “When I look back, I’m like, ‘Oh my gosh!’ I feel like they were just babies, but they grew so fast and here they are walking and getting into things and tackling each other.”
Utah State Superintendent Dr. Sydnee Dickson said a child’s earliest years are the most critical.
“We know a lot about neuroplasticity and how rapidly the brain grows and how much it can absorb,” she said. “Eighty-five perfect of their little brain development happens before five.”
That’s why KSL has partnered with the United Way and Envision Utah on a new state-wide campaign. It’s called 5B45 and highlights five simple things parents can do to prepare their children for the future before they turn five-years-old: love, talk, read, count, and play.
Dickson said each of these brain building activities is significant.
“Think about how important play is in the development of a child– their imagination, creative thinking, problem solving. These are lifelong skills,” Dickson said.
She said reading and talking to a child offers other skillsets.
“It doesn’t matter the language, using vocabulary and talking to your child from the time they’re very small, helps them absorb all those vocabulary words,” Dickson said. “We know that students pick up what they hear, so it’s not just the ideas in the books, but it’s really the rhythm of reading. It’s the opportunity to have conversations about what you’re reading.”
As Wade has learned, each of her children learn differently and have unique needs.
“Unfortunately, we don’t have instruction manuals as mothers and so [with] each kid I’m trying to learn,” she said. “They all need a different kind of love. My oldest just needs to be talked to so we talk about emotions… or Ava, she’s five, she loves a good cuddle and that’s what makes her feel loved and my boys, I think they love just by me snuggling them, too.”
At times it may seem an overwhelming responsibility for parents to be the primary teacher of a child.
“It’s a lot on a parent to think, ‘Oh man, right now, especially at the younger ages, everything they’re learning is on me,’” Wade said.
Dickson said there is no one better qualified.
“We know that our parents are our child’s first teacher and truly their most important lifelong teacher,” she reaffirmed.
Dickson said these activities don’t need to be formal, but rather simple every day interactions.
“They are elements of healthy brain development that can occur anytime, anywhere,” Dickson said. “If you are engaging your child in cooking– measuring and counting, if you’re taking a walk– skipping and singing.”
“With my boys when I’m reading them a book, if there’s a picture like on Three Little Bears, we count the ‘one, two, three little bears,’” Wade said. “I feel like all day I’m constantly teaching even if it’s just in conversation, even if I’m feeding or we’re playing.”
Dickson said this is the best way parents can prepare their children for school.
“Laying these foundational elements can really help them ease into whether it’s preschool or kindergarten, when they start formal learning,” she said. “They have an expanded vocabulary, they know how to count, they can interact with others.”
She said parents need no other prerequisites than a desire to help their child grow.
“It doesn’t matter your vocation, your language, your background, your economic status, these are five elements that truly transcend all demographics,” she said. “They don’t have to buy materials, there’s no training needed. These are just really simple– loving your child, talking to them, counting with them, reading to them and playing with them. Anybody can do that.”
Wade said watching her children learn and grow always makes the hard work worth it.
“It’s so cool to see them progress and the things that they are working hard on,” she said.
For ideas on how you can start implementing these five brain-building activities in your home at every age, visit 5B45kids.com or download the app Vroom app in the App Store or Google Play Store.
Dickson said the idea for the campaign originated a few years ago when a group of community leaders brought together by the United Way collaborated about how they could improve outcomes for families in Salt Lake City.
“We started looking at all different elements and aspects and we all came to the agreement that education is the way out of poverty, is the way to strengthen the economy, [and] is the way to improve outcomes,” Dickson explained.
Dickson said the group looked at brain research and found it made a difference to engage parents early on with the development of their children.
“The elements of growth really happen in the home and [with] the nurturing of parents,” she said.