Cradle to K

At-Home Learning Activities for Toddlers

At-Home Learning Activities for Toddlers 2560 1707 Ivy Marsnik

The world is one giant playground for toddlers, but it is also one enormous classroom! Toddlers love to learn new things and master new concepts, making it the perfect time for creating a solid foundation for future skills like reading and counting. One of the best things you as a parent can do is to continue to build upon your child’s interest in learning by engaging in lots of fun, everyday activities.

Learning Letters

Children generally begin to recognize the letters in their name around age two making the letters in their name a natural starting point. Display your child’s name nearly everywhere imaginable at home: on the bathroom step stool, in magnets on the fridge, on their bedroom door, in foam letters on the shower walls. Seeing their name displayed and pointed out to them will build recognition over time.

From there, you can also point out and say each letter in his or her name aloud, one-by-one. Once your child has their own name mastered, move on to learning the letters in words like mom or dad, and eventually to the other letters of the alphabet.

Learning Numbers

Numbers are easier incorporate in everyday activities than you may think. You can count buttons on a shirt as you get dressed, orange slices at snack time, or the number of bananas in a bunch the next time you grocery shop. Most toddlers will be able to recite numbers one through ten before they are truly able to count, so having them repeat those numbers aloud, recognize them on flashcards or in a book, or elsewhere may be a good place to start.

Once your child recognizes numbers and is able to count up to ten, you may be ready to move on to critical math skills such as grouping, sorting, and identifying more than/less than concepts. A good activity to try is sorting stuffed animals or other toys by type or color. After your child places all the bears in one pile, cats in another, and elephants in a third, you can then ask questions like, “Which pile has the most stuffed animals?” and “Which has the least?”. A good way to give a hint and to encourage an estimate is to ask which pile is the biggest pile and which is the smallest. From there, test your hypothesis by counting all the animals in each pile.

Learning Shapes

Shapes can be learned by relating them to everyday objects. Next time you have pancakes for breakfast, talk about the shape of a circle. On your next walk, look for things that resemble a circle, such as the wheels of the stroller or on passing cars. You may also cut foods into those shapes by, for instance, taking a square slice of cheese and cutting it into a circle. Be sure to take photos of all the objects in a particular shape you found throughout the day to review before bed. Being able to relate shapes to real-life examples will help in not only solidifying the lesson, but also in shaping critical thinking skills.

Learning Colors

A good way to start learning colors is to designate a color of the day. If the color of the day is green, maybe we wear green socks, eat lots of green beans and green grapes, drink green milk (with the help of food coloring) or out of a green cup, practice pointing out all the green toys we have or other green things we see, read a story about green alligators, and end the day with green fizzy bath tablets.
As you begin incorporating colors into your day, it will become a bit of a habit to point colors out throughout the day by asking your child questions like, “Would you like to wear a purple shirt, or a yellow one today?”, “Would you like more of the red apple or orange sweet potatoes?”, or “Can you find the matching blue sock?”

Once basic colors are mastered, you will be able to move on to hues. Talk about all the variations of blue from sky blue to midnight blue – so dark it’s almost black! Practice sorting items in various hues, or arranging items from lightest blue to darkest, and naming something else they can think of that matches that particular hue. For older children, experimenting with color mixing can be a lot of fun and easily done at home with paint or by using ice cubes and food coloring.

By incorporating learning activities in everyday life, you will see your child’s enthusiasm for learning continue to grow. The best part is, in doing so, you are preparing them for school and setting them on a path towards a successful future.

Promoting Early Literacy Development – Tips for Parents

Promoting Early Literacy Development – Tips for Parents 150 150 Ivy Marsnik

At its core, early literacy development begins with what children know about reading and writing long before they themselves can read and write. Here are a few tips to help promote early literacy development at home:

1. Enjoy more conversation

Make the most of the time you spend with your child by simply talking and listening to them more. Listen to children’s songs in the car or use this valuable time together to talk about anything from the alphabet to the weather.

2. Avoid baby talk

Stick to more grown up language to build a long lasting foundation for literacy development. Many activities can promote rich language use, such as visiting a museum, zoo or other exhibit. You’ll find yourself using words to describe your surroundings in these settings that you may not often use in routine conversation.

3. Bring back the bedtime story

Researchers estimate that less than half of children under the age of five are read to daily. Reading with your child from birth is one of the best ways to promote early literacy development. Just a few minutes a day makes a big difference, so take a trip to the library and make sure you aren’t forgetting those bedtime stories!

4. Expand on school projects

If you don’t know what your child is working on in school, ask their teacher to share their unit plans. Once you know what your child is learning, build on those lessons at home to help deepen their knowledge and draw more connections to them. Have fun with this! If, for instance, your child is learning the letter “B” this week, take them to the beach (weather permitting), or create a collage using magazine and newspaper clippings of items or activities that start with the letter “B”. If your child is a little older, and perhaps learning about the environment, check out a really cool book about the rainforest, and talk about the differences between that environment and the one in which they live.

5. Encourage them and express pride

Nothing fosters a love for learning faster than the encouragement of a proud parent. Whether your child just learned their ABCs or finished their first chapter book, be sure to tell them what a great job they have done. Recognizing their hard work paying off will set healthy patterns for the future.

Minneapolis Mayor and Cabinet Release Cradle to K Plan

Minneapolis Mayor and Cabinet Release Cradle to K Plan 150 150 Ivy Marsnik

Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges and her Cradle to K Cabinet released a final report detailing a plan to eliminate disparities for children in Minneapolis from birth to three years old.

Hodges campaigned on her Cradle to K idea to close what she saw as a public health epidemic of children unprepared for kindergarten.

“It’s a big day for a mayor who had an idea, saw it come to fruition with the cabinet and now we have these ideas and can move into implementation,” said Hodges. “But really it’s a big day for Minneapolis, big day for the kids and the families in the city of Minneapolis because we have an even better idea of how we can move forward to make sure our children thrive.”

Hodges and her cabinet met with over 200 community members in March and received considerable feedback on how to implement the plan. The nearly 50-page report outlines three main goals.

First, to make sure every child has a healthy start, by boosting home visits, early childhood screenings, and mental health services. Secondly, after public feedback, Cradle to K will make sure safe and stable housing is another top priority. Last, the group will work to bring more access to high-quality childcare. All the goals are supported by current research and prevailing best practices, along with policy and legislative recommendations to make the strategies reality.

“The beautiful thing about this report it acknowledges that children don’t come in pieces and that we need to ensure that family systems are included when we talk about outcomes for children,” said Peggy Flanagan, Cradle to K Co-Chair and Children’s Defense Fund Executive Director.

Carolyn Smallwood, Cradle to K Co-Chair and Way to Grow Executive Director spoke about the efforts to reach out to family networks.

“Family, friends and neighbors are cornerstones of our services in Minneapolis and that’s where the majority of our children are being cared for so the city has to come up with a strategy that would align those two,” said Smallwood.

Outreach will extend to pregnant women and families with young children as Cradle to K works to leverage existing services of Way to Grow, Children’s Hospitals and Clinics, Generation Next, among other organizations.

“That access and those resources, and mostly the need for those additional resources are not determined by income, by race and are not determined by zip code,” said Hodges.

Hodges stressed the city is at a critical juncture with the disparities young children face, pointing out 80 percent of brain development occurs by three years old.

The recommendations in the Cradle to K report will be tracked beginning in 2016.

This post by Lindsey Seavert originally appeared on KARE 11.

Cradle to K Cabinet Releases Final Plan to Address Early Learning Disparities in Minneapolis

Cradle to K Cabinet Releases Final Plan to Address Early Learning Disparities in Minneapolis 150 150 Ivy Marsnik

Mayor Hodges and the Cradle to K Cabinet released the final Cradle to K report outlining policy, legislative and collaborative recommendations for 2015 and beyond.

“As much as possible, these recommendations are based on research and the prevailing best practices in the field and in our community.  We want to focus on what works.”
-Mayor Betsy Hodges

The Cabinet, focused on eliminating disparities for children in the City of Minneapolis from prenatal to age three, released the draft report earlier this year.  “I want to thank the community for the serious and heartfelt response we received to the draft report.  I think you will find we took many comments to heart and incorporated your feedback into the final report,” says Mayor Betsy Hodges, “These recommendations are grounded in our three goals and have been labored on not just by our 28 Cabinet members but also by our subcommittees and additional community members.”

The Cabinet is recommending systems alignment, leveraging existing resources, and increased investments in children in the areas of targeted home visiting, housing for very-low income families, child care assistance and early learning scholarships, and service funding for our most vulnerable children such as homeless children and children with special needs.  “The Cabinet’s work is not done,” states Cabinet Co-Chair, Peggy Flanagan, calling Cradle to K a labor of love. “We are ready to get to work.”

Carolyn Smallwood, Cabinet Co-Chair and Executive Director of Way to Grow, adds that the Cabinet is now putting together its implementation plan.  Carolyn outlined a few of the things the Cabinet will be working on right away:

  • Improving the mental health services for children zero to three
  • Combining efforts with Generation Next and others to continue to increase early childhood screening efforts
  • Working on ways to increase the availability of housing for the most low-income families
  • Looking at ways to increase early learning scholarship opportunities for families in Minneapolis and
  • Trying to connect with family, friend and neighbor care providers who provide the majority of care to very young children.

Of these, Carolyn highlights, “It is critical for family, friend and neighbor care providers to have the correct information on getting kids ready for school.”  The Cabinet’s vision for the future, as told by Mayor Hodges, is for every parent and child to have the same access to resources beginning with prenatal care, continuing to empower parents to create a nurturing environment for their children, having stable housing that can provide a safe place to learn, and not having that access be determined or affected by income or race.

The Mayor has said Cradle to K is one of her main priorities this year.  The full report is available on the Mayor’s website.

Check out Way to Grow’s feature on KARE 11.

Mayor Hodges, Cradle to K Cabinet to Release Final Plan to Eliminate Disparities for Minneapolis Children

Mayor Hodges, Cradle to K Cabinet to Release Final Plan to Eliminate Disparities for Minneapolis Children 150 150 Ivy Marsnik

On Monday, May 18th at 1:30 p.m., Mayor Betsy Hodges and the Cradle to K Cabinet will release their final report which finalizes a plan to eliminate disparities for children in Minneapolis from birth to three years old. Prior to Monday’s release the Mayor and her cabinet met with over 200 community members in March and received considerable feedback over the internet to gather input on the recommendations and strategies for the final report.  The final report outlines policy, legislative and collaboration recommendations for 2015 and beyond.

The Cradle to K Cabinet is one of Mayor Hodges’ major initiatives, with a goal of eliminating disparities for children in the City of Minneapolis from birth to three years old. The Cabinet has been meeting since spring of 2014 and began accepting community feedback this past January. You can see a full list of cabinet members here.

WHAT:                 Mayor Hodges and Cradle to K Cabinet release final Cradle to K plan

WHEN:                Monday, May 18, 2015, 1:30-2:30 p.m.

WHO:                   Mayor Betsy Hodges, Co-Chair Cradle to K Cabinet Carolyn Smallwood,
Co-Chair Cradle to K Cabinet Peggy Flanagan, Members of the Cradle to K Cabinet

WHERE:             Way to Grow, 125 West Broadway, Suite 110, Minneapolis, MN 55411

RSVP:                   By 10:00 a.m., Monday morning, May 18, 2015 to:
Alexandra Fetissoff Alexandra.Fetissoff@minneapolismn.gov(612) 673-3825

Mayor Hodges, Cradle to K Cabinet Announce Cabinet Will Issue Report with 2015 Recommendations

Mayor Hodges, Cradle to K Cabinet Announce Cabinet Will Issue Report with 2015 Recommendations 150 150 Ivy Marsnik

October 10, 2014 (MINNEAPOLIS) — Mayor Betsy Hodges announced Thursday that her Cradle to K Cabinet is working on a year-end report which will outline policy, legislative, and collaboration recommendations for 2015. The Cabinet has been meeting since spring, when Mayor Hodges convened the full first meeting of the cabinet.

“The members of my Cradle to K Cabinet have shown exceptional dedication to our goal of closing the achievement gap in the city’s education system by eliminating disparities for children from prenatal to three years old,” said Mayor Hodges. “The discussions, collaboration, and work happening at this table is focused on our opportunity to create equity with our kids – I’m heartened by the energy of the Cabinet. I feel confident our year-end report will be comprehensive and forward-thinking. I look forward to that report guiding the Cradle to K Cabinet’s work in 2015.”

Since the first meeting, the cabinet has identified three objectives members are focused on. The cabinet has organized members into committees, each one focused on a different objective.

“I’m pleased we’ve been able to focus in on three concrete goals,” said Carolyn Smallwood, Co-Chair of the Cradle to K Cabinet and Executive Director of Way to Grow. “Those goals are that all children receive a healthy start rich with early experience to prepare them for successful early education and literacy; all children will be stably housed; and all children will have continuous access to high quality child development programming.”

“Each committee is looking at potential policy or legislative recommendations for each of these objectives,” said Peggy Flanagan, Co-Chair of the Cradle to K Cabinet and Executive Director of the Children’s Defense Fund-Minnesota. “Some of those recommendations may be small changes at the city level, and some may require larger state legislation to achieve our goal. In January, we’ll begin working on those recommendations.”

The Cradle to K Cabinet will make its report public in early January. Flanagan and Smallwood joined Mayor Hodges Thursday at a media briefing to discuss the cabinet’s work. They were joined by: Gretchen Musicant, Chair of the Committee focused on Early Experiences; Mikkel Beckmen, Chair of the Committee focused on Stable Housing; Aaron Sojourner, member of the Committee focused on Continuous Access; and Richelle Hart-Peeler, a parent representative on the cabinet.

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