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The Heart of Illinois United Way has a new early childhood initiative, Success by Six, dedicated to ensuring that all children age zero to six, are healthy, safe, nurtured and ready to succeed. One of the first steps in this initiative is partnering with United Way of America, the Ad Council and local television stations to present Born Learning, an innovative public awareness campaign that helps parents, caregivers and communities create quality early learning opportunities for young children.

Children are constantly learning, right from birth. Their early years are the foundation for growth and development, and what they learn during those years depends on the experiences they have each and every day. Parents and caregivers of young children understand this, yet many aren’t sure how to encourage early learning, or feel they don’t have enough time to help their child succeed in school. In response, United Way of America has created the Born Learning campaign to create long-lasting community change in support of young children.

Born Learning has three cornerstones that include: awareness by providing important information about how young children learn; education through providing easy, fun action steps that parents, grandparents and caregivers can use every day; and action by providing a visible platform for public policy.

Since holiday time is here and it will be filled with road trips and meals, here are some quick learning ideas from Born Learning’s Mind in the Making project that you can use with your children this month:

• Children have a natural curiosity. Watch and listen to what they’re interested in on car trips. Do they like road signs, repeating new words or watching holiday lights twinkle?
• Have a sing-a-long while on the road, playing songs you and your children love. It will create togetherness and help your children learn through the sounds of language.
• Use travel time to talk about your child’s day and ask them questions about what they have to say.
• Meals are one of the most important times to be together as a family. Families who interact with each other over meals were more likely to have children with higher literacy levels.
• Give your children ordinary kitchen objects such as plastic cups or wooden spoons to play with while you fix a meal.
• Name the foods you are eating and talk about the foods your child loves to eat.
• Let children help make the meal – whether it’s placing napkins on the table, tearing lettuce leaves for a salad or stirring soup.
• Have your child include their favorite stuffed animal or doll at your “dinner party.”
• Create family traditions at meal times, such as special songs, stories or games.

How can caregivers support daily learning all year long? Since children learn in many ways, Born Learning is putting research, products and tools into communities. These tools are meant to help local children and inspire everyone who nurtures our youth. IBI

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