The First Five Years

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Family Disaster Preparedness

Young children have needs that we often take for granted when the sky is blue. But are you prepared for how to help them when disaster strikes? We have information about how your family can be prepared for whatever Mother Nature sends our way. A little planning now can save lives when disaster strikes.

Disaster Preparedness Tips (Save the Children)
Family Supply List (

Parent-Caregiver communication

When you find a child care provider who’s just right, you know your little one is in a safe nurturing environment. But there is more to it than dropping off in the morning and picking up after work. For the wellbeing of the child, both parents and caregivers owe it to each other to communicate.

Parent-Caregiver Communication: Making it Work for Your Child (Child Care Aware)
Importance of Caregiver-Parent Communication (GlobalPost)
Effective Communication With Parents (Zero to Three)


Math helps children develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills. The developing brain is not only ready to learn and use language, it is also capable of learning and using math and scientific thinking. It is important to practice and develop these skills early.

Developing Early Math Skills (Zero to Three)
Math Talk With Infants and Toddlers (NAEYC)
What Explains Toddlers’ Linguistic Leap? Math. (Scientific American)


From the day they’re born, children communicate in many ways. The national nonprofit Zero to Three has some tips to help parents encourage language development in babies.

Supporting Your Child’s Early Communication Skills (Zero to Three)
Language Development: Speech Milestones for Babies (Mayo Clinic)
Talking to Families of Infants and Toddlers about Developmental Delays (NAEYC)

Summer Learning

Learning doesn’t stop in the summertime. Whether you go down to the ocean or stay at home, chances to learn are everywhere.

Know the Facts (National Summer Learning Association)
Summer Learning Day Resources for Parents (National Summer Learning Association)
Field Trips for Summer Fun (Child Care Aware)
Summer Reading Tips for Parents of Babies, Toddlers and Young Children (PBS Kids)
Summer Ideas for Pre-K (Pinterist)
Stay Safe Around the Water (American Red Cross)


Maryland Family Network’s Family Support Centers provide free services to families. The goal is to help adults develop the skills they need to raise successful children. Fathers are a huge part of making this success a reality. Let’s give men the resources, tools and time that they need to be great dads.

Maryland Family Network Family Support Centers The Proof Is In: Father Absence Harms Child Well-Being (Huffington Post)
The Importance of Fathers in the Healthy Development of Children (Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services)

Talking about Loss

When a loved one dies, parents may wonder how or even if to talk about the loss with children. The American Academy of Pediatrics tells us that even children who are too young to understand death should know why the people around them are sad.

Death and Dying (American Academy of Pediatrics)
Talking to Children About Death (NIH Clinical Center)
Children’s Books About Death (NAEYC)


Since the dawn of time, there have been storytellers. But we are just starting to understand how important this tradition is. New research published in The Atlantic suggests that young children who hear lots of detailed family stories grow into well-adjusted adolescents.

What Kids Learn From Hearing Family Stories (The Atlantic)
The Stories That Bind Us (The New York Times)

Pets 1.75


There’s nothing cuter than young children and animals together. When children help care for a pet it teaches responsibility and boosts self-esteem. If you have kids at home under six, listen to this before adopting a cuddly companion.

Selecting the Right Pet For Your Family (The Humane Society)
Helping Your Child When the Family Pet Dies Pets and Children (American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry)

Military Families

Finding child care is often difficult. With frequent relocations, deployments, and distance from extended family, it can be especially hard for military families. That’s where Maryland Family Network comes in. LOCATE: Child Care has helped many military personnel find options that are right for them. A LOCATE Referral Specialist offers information about how to identify quality care and will personally contact child care providers to find openings. This lets service members focus on jobs and families.

LOCATE: Child Care (Maryland Family Network)
Assistance for Military Families (Child Care Aware of America)
Resources for Active-Duty Service Members, Veterans, and Military Families (Senator Barbara Mikulski)

Decision Making

Learning how to make decisions as children prepares them to make sound choices as adults. Honoring a preschooler’s choice also tells him that you respect him and his abilities. Here are some ways to guide children through this process.

Raising Good Decision Makers (Huffington Post)
Fun Activities to Teach Children About Decision Making (Global Post)
Deal or No Deal: Five Year Olds Make Smart Decisions In Games Of Risk (Science Daily)

Sibling rivalry

Siblings play a very powerful role in our lives. Starting as young children, brothers and sisters shape the way we feel about ourselves, our families and society. But let’s face it, siblings don’t always get along. There’re some things parents can do to help keep the peace at home.

20 Tips to Stop Quibbling Siblings (Ask Dr. Sears)
What Is Sibling Rivalry? (University of Michigan)
When Sibling Fights Go Beyond Harmless Kid Stuff (NPR)


Did you know that some child care professionals earn less than a fast food server? But a child’s care and education are not drive-through services. Let’s work together to explore ways to raise the salaries of child care professionals in Maryland without raising child care costs or blocking access for working families.

2014 Trends in Child Care (Maryland Family Network)
Bureau of Labor Statistics

appropriate Apps

It starts with proud parents Tweeting pictures from the delivery room to a seemingly endless supply of smartphone apps that claim to be educational. In the first few years of life, children are around computer screens all the time. It’s hard for parents to know how much exposure, if any, is okay for developing brains. Listen now for some tips that will help.

Media and Children (American Academy of Pediatrics)
Technology That Supports Early Learning (NAEYC)
Should This iPad Rattle Really Be a Baby Toy? (Fast Company)
For The Children’s Sake, Put Down That Smartphone (NPR Morning Edition)


Developing STEM skills – science, technology, engineering and math – help children do well in all areas of study. Especially when we start early. Teaching STEM skills can be easy, fun, and inexpensive.

How a Construction Learning Center Enhances STEM Learning (NAEYC)
Going from STEM to STEAM: Creativity and self-expression give life to science, technology, engineering and math Engaging Children in STEM Education EARLY! (Natural Start Alliance)
STEM in the Early Years (Dr. Lilian G. Katz)

Early Childhood Mental health

If left untreated, a mental health problem can delay a child’s normal development and lead to more severe problems later on. It’s good to know there are others that parents can turn to and trust. Maryland Family Network mental health specialists work directly with child care providers, children, and parent to identify and solve problems. Together you can decide if it’s just growing pains or something more.

How Childcare Providers Can Help Maryland’s Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation Project
Center for Early Education and Development

how to be a successful Grandparent

Being a grandparent – like being a parent – isn’t easy, especially in this digital age where things change so quickly. This week we present 10 tips on how to be a successful grandparent.

Generations United AARP Grandparent Resources
Carnival of Natural Parenting

choosing Child care

Choosing child care is stressful for any parent. For parents who have children with special needs, the anxieties can be compounded. LOCATE Child Care, a program of Maryland Family Network, is designed to help all parents in Maryland find child care.

LOCATE: Child Care LOCATE: Child Care for Children with Special Needs
Servicio Especial en Español Services for Child Care Providers

Reading Aloud

March is Read Aloud Month. To celebrate we’ve compiled some basic guidelines for making read-aloud time stimulating and fun for everyone. Soon you’ll open a chapter that ends in a lifelong love of reading for the child in your life.

The 10 Read Aloud Commandments by Mem Fox Read Across America (National Education Association)
Read Across Maryland

Early Childhood 101

The recent convergence of two fields of research — neurological studies of early brain development and longitudinal studies of the long-term impact of early childhood experiences – confirm the importance of the years from birth to age five.

landmark studies

Three landmark studies followed groups of disadvantaged children and measured the impact of high quality early childhood education:
High/Scope (the Perry Preschool Project)   (HighScope Educational Research Foundation)
Carolina Abecedarian Project  (Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute, UNC Chapel Hill)
The Chicago Child-Parent Centers  (Promising Practices Network) [

Brain Development

From birth to age five, children experience a surge in brain growth and cognitive ability that sets the framework for all future development.

The Timing and Quality of Early Experiences Combine to Shape Brain Architecture (Center on the Developing Child, Harvard University)
Experiences Build Brain Architecture (Center on the Developing Child, Harvard University)
In Brief: The Science of Early Childhood Development (Center on the Developing Child, Harvard University)
Core Concepts in the Science of Early Childhood Development (Center on the Developing Child, Harvard University)
For more information, visit ZERO TO THREE, National Center for Infants, Toddlers, and Families.

poverty and other risk factors

A variety of risk factors (physical or emotional abuse, chronic neglect, caregiver substance abuse or mental illness, exposure to violence, and/or the accumulated burdens of family economic hardship) can impinge on healthy development in the early years.

Poverty as a Childhood Disease (New York Times)
Toxic Stress: The Facts How toxic stress affects brain development in young children. (Center on the Developing Child, Harvard University)
From Neurons to Neighborhoods: The Science of Early Childhood Development (National Research Council and Institute of Medicine)
Poverty Fact Sheet (Zero to Three: National Center for Infants, Toddlers, and Families)
Research findings on effects of poverty at the Center on the Developing Child, Harvard University Metro Trends blog and The Negative Effects of Instability on Child Development: A Research Synthesis from Urban Institute
Addressing Poverty in Schools (New York Times – includes the 9/11 trauma study mentioned above)
‘Crack baby’ study ends with unexpected but clear result  (The Philadelphia Inquirer)

Language Acquisition

Young children learn language by hearing words, especially conversation directed at them.

The 30 Million Word Gap (United Way of Racine)
Bridging the Vocabulary Gap: What the Research Tells Us about Vocabulary Instruction in Early Childhood  (National Association for the Education of Young Children)
The Power of Talking to Your Baby  (New York Times)
Studies Show Talking With Infants Shapes Basis of Ability to Think  (New York Times)
Narrating Your Child’s Day (video from Maryland Family Network)

the Importance of Play

Experts agree:  Children’s work is play. Through play, children acquire cognitive, social, and physical skills.

Why Preschool Shouldn’t Be Like School (Slate)
The Importance of Play in Promoting Healthy Child Development and Maintaining Strong Parent-Child Bonds (American Academy of Pediatrics)
Play is more than fun. (TedTalks)
Effort to Restore Children’s Play Gains Momentum (New York Times)
Playing for All Kinds of Possibilities (New York Times)
Old-Fashioned Play Builds Serious Skills (National Public Radio)

For more information, go to the Alliance for Childhood.

The Promise of Pre-K

Preschool plays an important role in preparing children to succeed in kindergarten.  Publicly funded pre-K helps ensure that children of all income levels have access to preschool.

Transforming Public Education: Pathway to a Pre-K-12 Future  (The Pew Center on the States)
The Case for Pre-K in Education Reform  (The Pew Center on the States)
Investments in Education May Be Misdirected  (New York Times)
The Effects of Oklahoma’s Early Childhood Four-Year-Old Program on Young Children’s School Readiness  (National Institute for Early Education Research)
For more information, go to the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER).

School Readiness

Research has determined that the foundation for educational achievement is well-established before children enter school.  Educators have identified a wide range of skills and competencies that help children succeed in school by allowing them to express themselves verbally, manage their emotions, use small and large motor skills, explore and solve problems.

Tips for Parents:  This booklet explains school readiness, the seven domains of learning, and everyday activities parents can do to promote early learning and school readiness. (Maryland Family Network)
Maryland Model for School Readiness:  The Division of Early Childhood Development in the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) provides information on school readiness.  Parents may want to scroll down to “What is MMSR” for an overview.  (MSDE)
School Readiness Assessment is conducted by kindergarten teachers for every child.  Aggregated assessment data is available for Maryland and for each jurisdiction. (MSDE)
The School Ready Infographic provides a visual overview of development from infancy to age 5. (ZERO TO THREE: National Center for Infants, Toddlers, and Families)

what does quality childcare look like?

Quality child care can be found in many settings – family child care, center-based care, Head Start or preschool.  Indicators of quality include warm relationships, safe and stimulating environment, and developmentally appropriate planned activities for play-based learning.

Choosing Child Care: How to Find the Right Care for Your Child  (Maryland Family Network)
Is This the Right Place for My Child?  38 Research-based Indicators of Quality Child Care (Child Care Aware)
Essentials for Your Child Care Visit  (Child Care Aware)

Family Support

Family Support helps families identify strengths, set goals, and work toward them.  Family Support Centers work with disadvantaged parents and young children, providing children with stimulating, nurturing child care while their parents take classes ranging from GED preparation to parenting techniques to life and job skills.

More information on Family Support in Maryland. For short videos from Maryland Family Network, see:
A Win-Win for Struggling Parents about adult education and GED preparation at a Family Support Center;
What Adults Learn from Play about coaching parents as they engage in child-directed play;
A New Delivery Model for Family Support about a Community Hub; and
In the Door and On the Floor where you can watch a home visit in action.

Protective Factors

Strengthening Families is an approach to promoting healthy family functioning. Taken together, protective and promotive factors increase the probability of positive, adaptive and healthy outcomes, even in the face of risk and adversity.

The Protective Factors Framework (Center for the Study of Social Policy) provides an overview of the five Protective Factors listed above.
Protective and Promotive Factors provides an explanation of the factors that mitigate or eliminate the risk of negative outcomes, as well as factors that actively enhance well-being. (Center for the Study of Social Policy)
Core Meanings of the Protective Factors provides examples that explain the Protective Factors.  (Center for the Study of Social Policy)
The Five Things All Families Need (4 minute video) describes the five Protective Factors that are the core of the Strengthening Families approach.  It includes video of participants in a Parent Café, the primary method of spreading information about the Protective Factors.  (Maryland Family Network)
For more information, visit the Center for the Study of Social Policy.

the social & emotional foundations of early learning

Every child needs one person who is crazy about him, said renowned psychologist Uri Bronfenbrenner. This affirming human connection is the prerequisite for healthy social and emotional development, which is a necessary foundation for all learning.

Resources for Parents:  A series of short publications (3 to 6 pages) on topics such as teaching your child to identify and express emotions, reading your child’s cues, and helping your child build persistence, confidence, and relationship skills.
Backpack Connection A series of one-page guides on topics such as teaching children new skills and expectations; stopping whining; using positive language to improve behavior; helping your child understand sadness, anger, frustration, jealousy, or disappointment.
The primary online source for early childhood professionals concerned with the Social and Emotional Foundations of Early Learning (SEFEL) is maintained by Vanderbilt University.
The online SEFEL source for early childhood professionals in Maryland is maintained by the University of Maryland School of Social Work.
“Tucker the Turtle” video (2 minutes) shows an anger management technique in practice at a child care center.

the Conundrum of Child Care Economics

When it comes to the economics of child care, both sides are hurting.  For parents, the cost of child care is a huge financial burden.  For child care providers, the financial compensation is grossly inadequate. Maryland Family Network collects and analyses extensive data about the demand, supply, and cost of child care in Maryland. Child Care Demographics 2013 includes data on population, income, workforce participation, and child care in Maryland.

Child Care Demographics 2015: The Maryland Report provides aggregate data for the state.
Child Care Demographics 2015: Jurisdictional Reports  provide county-level data for Baltimore City and the 23 counties in Maryland.
Trends in Child Care 2015  provides a state-level summary of demand, supply, and cost of child care in Maryland from 2008 and projecting to 2017.
For international comparisons of government subsidy for early care and education, see The United States is Trailing Other Countries on Early Education Investment and Enrollment (including colorful infographic) from Center for American Progress.
Education at a Glance 2012 provides international comparisons on access to preschool on page 74 – 75.
Innocenti Report Care 11 from UNICEF’s Office of Research ranks the U.S. as 26th out of 28 developed nations in the provision of preschool to 4-year olds.  In addition, the Report Card offers many other indicators of child well-being.

Childhood Trauma

You often hear it said that “Children are resilient” – but perhaps not as resilient as we’d like to believe.  There is staggering evidence that trauma in childhood has lasting effects and directly contributes to health, social, and economic outcomes in adulthood. The most prominent research related to the lasting effects of childhood trauma is called the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) study.

Infographic on adverse childhood experiences provides visual presentation about prevalence and outcomes.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides an overview of the ACE study and information about public health leadership to prevent child maltreatment.
The ACE Score Calculator lets individuals determine their exposure to adverse childhood experiences.

Approaches to Learning

From birth, children are intensely engaged in learning how to learn. They are propelled by motivation, attitudes, and habits that experts call “approaches to learning.”

Child Development Tracker from PBS Parents provides age-specific suggestions for nurturing your child’s curiosity, persistence, problem solving, and imagination.  Select your child’s age and then click on “Approaches to Learning.”
Although intended for its teachers, Head Start’s “Approaches to Learning” offers clear explanation about why each approach to learning is important and suggests ways to nurture their development. It’s interesting to note that “approaches to learning” captures the essence of the “plan, do, review” process that is the core of the teaching method developed by High Scope at the reknown Perry Preschool Project.
Watch MFN’s video on persistence and problem solving, two traits that support early learning.

Home Visiting

Home visiting, which reaches families with young children in extreme need, has been linked to positive outcomes, including reductions in infant deaths and childhood injuries; as well as increases in school readiness.

Home Visiting Campaign (Pew Charitable Trusts) – overview, research, video of a home visit.
In the Door and On the Floor: Watch a Home Visit in Action (video from Maryland Family Network)

Boxes and imaginative play

Playing in and with boxes is great fun for kids, and it’s also a learning opportunity. It’s empowering because the child gets to decide what the box is going to be, exercising her ingenuity, problem-solving skills, and spatial ability.

What Cardboard Boxes Can Teach Kids (Moving Smart)
Funny Cuz It’s True: Kids Prefer Cardboard Boxes to Flashy Toys (Or, How We Free Play (Parenting)
Classroom Toys Replaced with Cardboard Boxes (Parenting)

Parenting for authentic success

Children learn through experience – both success and failure.  So, children learn from their victories, and also through scraped knees, and collapsed castles.  When children learn from these incidents, we call them “successful failures.”

Madeline Levine: Parenting for Authentic Success (KQED)
How to Raise a Child: “Teach Your Child Well” by Madeline Levine (New York Times)
Healthy Beginnings:  Supporting Development and Learning from Birth through Three Years of Age  (Maryland State Department of Education)