The Basics give children a healthy start in life
- January 13, 2020
- / Reggie Dogan
- / early-learning
Pensacola is going with the Basics.
The Basics are five fun, simple and powerful ways that every family can give every child a good and healthy start in life.
Studer Community Institute is joining with Boston Basics to ensure that parents and caregivers in Pensacola are fully supported to use these principles in everyday life: Maximize Love, Minimize Stress; Talk, Sing and Point; Group and Compare; Explore through Movement and Play; and Read and Discuss Stories.
These evidence-based parenting and caregiving principles are designed for children between birth and age 3, the critical first 1,000 days of life in which 80 percent of the brain develops.
SCI’s partnership with Boston Basics developed in August, when Harvard professor Dr. Ron Ferguson visited Pensacola to talk about education and the achievement gap.
Dr. Ferguson, director of the Achievement Gap Initiative at Harvard University, is the lead creator of the Boston Basics. For most of his work in education, Ferguson focused on educational achievement starting in kindergarten. But when he saw that gaps based on socioeconomic status and race were already wide by the time children turn 2 years old, he decided to expand his focus.
Ferguson translated his educational background and research into five free and easy ways adults can help their babies learn, develop and grow.
Hence came the Boston Basics, and Ferguson is on a mission to introduce it to as many people, parents and organizations across the country.
Shannon Nickinson, SCI director of early learning, sees the Basics as a perfect complement to the work SCI already is doing in early childhood education in the Pensacola community.
“The Basics is an educational tool we can use to spread the word about how important the first three years are for children,” Nickinson said. “Bringing the Basics here is another big step in making Pensacola America’s first early learning city.”
Ferguson believes that the more people who get involved in the Basics Initiative, the more ideas there are for spreading the five principles across a larger portion of this region and the nation.
Since its start in 2015, The Boston Basics campaign has partnered with hospitals, community health centers, childcare providers, libraries and early learning centers across the city. Ferguson’s hope is that they help close the achievement gap that already begins to show by the time a child starts kindergarten.
The Basics is being used in states across the U.S., including Massachusetts, South Carolina, Tennessee and Kentucky at no cost to families or participants.
“Things that we need to do with infants and toddlers are not things that cost a lot of money,” Ferguson says. “It’s really about interacting with them and being responsive to their needs.”
And the goal always has been saturation, not simply targeting interventions in low-income communities or communities of color.
The effort isn’t about fixing bad parenting strategies among the disadvantaged; it’s about sharing information this is useful for everyone, because everyone can learn something from it.
Like Boston Basics, Pensacola Basics will saturate the community with tips, tools and activities to disseminate to parents and caregivers to help build healthy babies and brains.
Parents can access the basics through engaging booklets, videos and text messages. From giving hugs and kisses to expressing exciting and encouragement, the basics are truly simple, fun and effective at helping to build children’s brains.
Ferguson also hopes multiple exposures to the Basics will encourage parents to adopt them. If they hear about the Basics in the hospital, then during doctor visits, then in church, and also at the museum, the constant reminders may help achieve behavior change and improve outcomes.
“These are people that parents already know and trust,” Dr. Ferguson said. “We’re just having new conversations through old relationships.”
ABOUT THE BASICS
The five free, fun and simple principles of the Basics are:
1. Maximize love, manage stress. Babies pick up on stress, which means moms and dads have to take care of themselves, too. It's also not possible to over-love or be too affectionate with young children. Research shows feeling safe can have a lasting influence on development.
2. Talk, sing and point. "When you point at something, that helps the baby to start to associate words with objects," Ferguson explains. Some babies will point before they can even talk.
3. Count, group and compare. This one is about numeracy. Babies love numbers and counting, and there's research to show they're actually born with math ability. Ferguson says caregivers can introduce their children to math vocabulary by using sentences that compare things: "Oh, look! Grandpa is tall, but grandma is short" or "There are two oranges, but only three apples."
4. Explore through movement and play. "The idea is to have parents be aware that their children are learning when they play," Ferguson says.
5. Read and discuss stories. It's never too early to start reading aloud — even with babies. Hearing words increases vocabulary and relating objects to sounds starts to create connections in the brain. The Basics also put a big emphasis on discussing stories: If there's a cat in the story and a cat in your home, point that out. That's a piece lots of parents miss when just reading aloud.