Thoughtful Parenting: Educating our kids together

Deirdre Pepin/For Steamboat Pilot & Today

Educated kids can be great by age 8. But a future where every child thrives won’t happen without equal opportunity. We all play roles in preparing Steamboat Springs kids for healthy and successful futures. No matter how we interact with kids — as new parents, seasoned grandparents, neighborhood faces or hired professionals, we all have the ability to foster a strong start in life.

The Colorado Early Learning and Development Guidelines illustrate the trajectory of children’s learning and development from birth to age 8. The guidelines are broad enough to ensure a holistic approach to creating positive early childhood environments. Based on research and best practices, they align with Colorado Academic Standards, Head Start Child Development and Early Learning Framework, and they put us all on the same path toward success.

Created with input from an advisory board of diverse Colorado stakeholders, the guidelines are responsive to variations in culture, language and ability, and they address all areas of development and learning. They account for children’s health and physical development, emotional and behavioral development, as well as logic and reasoning.

The guidelines are intended to improve families’ and professionals’ knowledge of child development; help families and professionals working with children plan and implement appropriate learning activities; guide developmental support, instruction, assessment and intervention; and provide unified oversight for a comprehensive early childhood service delivery system. They are divided into three major sections — birth to age 3, age 3 to 5 years old and Kindergarten to third grade — and are based on the following principles.

  • Nature and nurture affect children’s development.
  • Culture influences every aspect of human development.
  • Self-regulation is a cornerstone of development that cuts across all domains.
  • Children are active participants in their own development.
  • Human relationships are the building blocks of healthy development.
  • The wide range of individual differences makes it difficult to differentiate normal variations and maturational delays from transient disorders and long-term impairments.
  • Development is characterized by continuities, discontinuities and a series of significant transitions.
  • Development is shaped by both vulnerability and resilience.
  • Children are vulnerable to risks and open to protective influences throughout their early years and into adulthood.
  • Development can be altered by effective interventions.

We are frequently reminded that the early years of a child’s life are the most critical years for development. In the first few years of life, more than one million new neural connections are formed every second. These connections build the brain’s architecture and create the foundation for all future learning, behavior and health.

If we nurture these connections, they grow stronger. If we ignore them, they disappear. Every interaction we have with children has the potential to boost development, and every interaction we have teaches them something about the world.

As parents, teacher, caregivers, friends and neighbors, our roles begin by simply getting involved. Stable, healthy relationships and positive experiences provide kids with a solid foundation for future achievement, health and wellness.

Kids learn best when they feel safe and secure with the people and environment around them. Their brains develop through back-and-forth (or serve and return) interaction, which includes making eye contact, interpreting facial expressions and using language. Using the tools we have within and around us, we can build strong, supportive relationships and help kids absorb, discover, explore and make our world a better place.

For fun and practical ways to enhance your child’s development, access the Early Learning and Development Guidelines at The website offers easy-to-understand information and videos about development at each stage along with resources and programs for additional help.

Deirdre Pepin is the resource development and public relations coordinator at Horizons Specialized Services. Contact Horizons’ Early Intervention Coordinator Lindsey Garey at 970-871-8558 or for questions about children 3 and younger.

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