The First Thousand Days for West Virginians
Early childhood is unequivocally the most important phase for overall development throughout the human lifespan. Brain and biological development during the first years of life is highly influenced by an infant’s environment, as early experiences determine health, education, and economic participation for the rest of life. Outside the immediate family, the community in which children spend time includes both their physical and social environments and how those environments influence the child’s development. All West Virginians – child care providers, teachers, public servants, organizers, businesses, church members, public servants, business leaders – somehow touch the lives of young children in some very important ways. Regardless of who you are, there are simple ways you can influence a young child’s healthy development and, remember, you don’t have to be a parent to empower others to be great parents.
Windows of Opportunity
- Positive social interaction with infants builds skills that cannot be taught. When engaging an infant, take time to focus personal, detailed attention on them.
- Volunteer assistance at local daycare or pre-k programs to support rich, stimulating programs and environments in which young people can interact, explore, and grow safely and constructively.
- Devote time to any child.
- Lead by example. Support the creation of family-friendly atmospheres and environments.
- Sponsor daycare programs and support their needs – refurbish a playground, organize a field trip or puppet show, donate art and library supplies to the community, and so on.
- Collaborate with other child-influencing agencies and community resources like church, school, and higher education institutions and leaders, to share information on best practices, needs, and challenges.
- Continuously research and support ways to ensure a fun and safe atmosphere for children in your community.
- Get involved to teach or support a Sunday school program.
- Educate yourself on early childhood welfare community needs and challenges and become involved as an advocate to evoke necessary change.
- Support local food pantries and soup kitchens to ensure that parents and young children receive necessary assistance.
If you are wondering about your child’s development, behavior, or learning; needing support to access services or helping a family member or friend find information about developmental services call the Help Me Grow hotline at (800) 642-8522 and speak directly with an expert care coordinator Monday through Friday, 8AM to 5PM. Help Me Grow is a new service that connects families and providers with resources available in West Virginia that provide direction and advice on issues ranging from parenting support and education to discipline and behavior management.