Supporting brain development by being present

Supporting Brain Development by Being Present

Did you know that babies are born wired to learn? In fact, babies’ brains have 100 billion neurons at birth. 1-0-0 BILLION! It’s hard to visualize 100 billion of anything but just know that their precious little heads house that many neurons. Right after birth, babies immediately start learning about the world around them, taking in data from their surrounding through all of their senses. Researcher Patricia Kuhl from the University of Washington describes babies as little scientists, “taking statistics” on sound, smell, sight, taste, and touch. The new stimuli around them immediately starts firing off synapses which trailblaze the changing architecture of their brains! Synapses are like rapid connections that neurons make with other neurons. It’s almost like the neurons are playing the fastest game of “tag” inside their brains. The more synapses, the more connections between neurons–thus, the more learning happens. Ultimately, you may think that you’re simply cooing and gazing into your baby’s eyes, but what you’re doing is actually supporting healthy brain development. Sounds pretty doable, doesn’t it? You bet!

View More: parents and caregivers, we already have the key to nurturing brain development just by actively engaging with our young children. It doesn’t take a fancy schmancy tablet app or expensive trendy new toy, all we have to do is be present with them. To be present means:

•Talking to them to expose them to language. The more you talk to your babies the more they can hear specifics in your language, voice, intonation, and sound.

•Physical touch. Snuggling, hugging, patting bellies, and swaying with your baby.

•Social referencing. Social referencing is when you face your baby and allow them to explore up close all of your facial gestures of smiling, peek-a-boo, etc.

•Bring their surroundings to life. As adults, we bridge the outside world to the attention of our babies. We support them in encouraging them to focus on what’s around them.

It’s very likely that all four of the aforementioned ways to be present are already in your day-to-day routine with your baby. In that case, give yourself a huge pat on the back and high five! I can imagine that right when baby wakes up in the morning, you’ve already wished them “Good morning! How did you sleep?” (talking); picked them up and snuggled morning kisses (physical touch); stared into their eyes and allowed their little hands to explore your face (social referencing); and then carried them around the house to “show them” where you are going to change their diaper or sit down to nurse for breakfast. Within the first 10 minutes of waking up, you’ve just routinely helped to nurture healthy brain development for your little one.

The Parenting Hub would love to hear how you pinpoint ways to be present with your young children. Please send your comments to:


Children and Brain Development: What We Know About How Children Learn

Brain Development


On the road, ready for snow!

Just hear those sleigh bells jingle-ing

Ring ting tingle-in too

Come on, it’s lovely weather

For a sleigh ride together with you!

‘Tis the season for holiday songs and cheery good will. That being said, it’s also the season for unexpected snow, black ice, and “ugh-I-don’t-have-snow-chains!” The Willamette Valley has enjoyed snowfall at least twice in the past two weeks. Although snow triggers excitement for school closures and playing outside, it also reminds parents that it’s time to make sure that they are prepared to drive in adverse conditions.

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The Oregon Department of Transportation has many tips on how to stay safe in driving snow and ice. Some of the tips to be aware of include:

  1. Allow extra time to get where you’re going. Travel is going to be slow. Road rage isn’t going to help anyone get anywhere any faster.
  2. Check road conditions on your route before you go at or by dialing 511. Plan your trip accordingly. If conditions are questionable, wait it out.
  3. Turn off your cruise control.
  4. Allow extra stopping distance. There is less traction on slick, snowy roads.
  5. Turn on your headlights to increase your visibility.
  6. Brake gently to avoid skidding or sliding. If the wheels lock up, ease off the brakes.
  7. Carry chains and know how to use them. Practice! Practice! Practice!
  8. Make sure your vehicle is in top operating conditions, with clean headlights, good brakes, working windshield wipers and good tires.
  9. Slow down when approaching off-ramps, bridges and shady spots where the snow often lingers longer.

In addition to the aforementioned driving safety tips, make sure that you have an emergency kit in your car at all times. Basic staples to include in the emergency are: blankets, water, flashlights, batteries, flares, road reflectors, jumper cables, first aid kit, gloves, boots, snacks, ice scraper, sand or kitty litter for traction, etc. A simple internet search will yield many helpful lists of items to pack in an emergency car kit. Still, when you are a parent and have little ones with you in the car during an emergency, you’ll need to make sure that you some more “emergency” items just in case. Such as:

Hand sanitizer                Crayons/Pencils & Paper    Sippy Cups

Diapers & Baby Wipes            Deck of cards            Small “surprise manipulative toys”

A few extra grocery bags        Medicine (Ibuprofen, allergies)    Toilet paper

Your children’s easy, go-to travel snack    Cash                Extra set of clothes & shoes

Books (Children’s and Read aloud)    Towels                Female travel urinal (works for males, too!)

This list isn’t all inclusive. Parents should personalize their emergency kit to what best fits the needs of their children. Sure, it might feel like you’re basically packing up everything but the kitchen sink, but it is better to be safe (and sane!) than sorry if you ever get stuck out in snowy weather.

The Parenting Hub would love to hear what are your “must have” items for an emergency car kit. Please send your ideas and tips to:

Can I Help?

Happy Thanksgiving! This is the wonderful time of the year where families gather together to share in fellowship and a bountiful feast. If you are the lucky host for Thanksgiving 2016 you may be experience a little bit of stress before the big day. There are many proverbs that come along with preparing a meal for a group of people. Two immediately come to mind for me: “Many hands make light work” and “Too many cooks spoil the broth.” Of course, the lesson here is to find a balance between delegating responsibilities and still feeling like you have some kind of control over how the day unfolds.

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Young children have a sixth sense of anticipating when an event is coming and are almost always eager to help. There are many easy ways to include them in helping to prepare for the oncoming celebration. Below are some fun tasks they can do to help lighten your load when hosting Thanksgiving in your home.

  1. Make name cards for the guests. Children can practice their writing skills by making seating cards for all guest. You can include stickers or little harvest items for embellishment. While they are at it, children can also be responsible for setting the table. This is a great math activity because children need to count how many plates, silverware, and napkins each guest should receive. It’s also a purposeful way to practice one-to-one counting.
  2. Have children act as the welcoming committee by being charge of greeting guests with big smiles and taking their coats as they arrive. Children can also help make sure that guests’ shoes stay in pairs to clear the front entry way. To make things a little more cozy, have your kids gather clean pairs of socks or house slippers to loan to guests to keep their feet warm during their stay.
  3. Children can gather arts and crafts materials and establish one table as the “Turkey Table.” This can be an activity for young (and old!) guests to use open-ended art to make a turkey. Children can also be encouraged to write or draw a picture of something they are thankful for.
  4. Delegate a child to be the “after meal line leader” to encourage guests to get up and take a nice walk around outside before preparing for dessert.
  5. Choose an easy appetizer for children to prepare beforehand. Here is a yummy pumpkin dip recipe that children can easily serve to guests.


Pumpkin Pie Dip (a.k.a Pumpkin Fluff)

1 15 oz. can of pureed pumpkin

1 8 oz. contain of Cool Whip, thawed

1 1.5 oz package of Vanilla Instant Pudding mix

1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Chill for at least 1 hour and then serve with graham crackers, pretzels, or vanilla wafers.


The Parenting Hub would love to hear how you encourage your children to be helpful during the holidays. Please send your ideas and tips to:

Better to Stay to in Bed!

October is the season for going to the pumpkin patch, watching colorful leaves fall, bundling up with scarves and mittens, and sharing flu germs. Ick! Many children are already exhibiting fits of sneezing, coughing, and slow dribbles of mucus from their little noses. According to the Centers for Disease and Control Prevention (CDC) 20,000 children under the age of 5 will be hospitalized with flu-related complications. In addition to regularly vaccinating your child, the CDC recommends 5 everyday habits that will help decrease your child’s chances of being sick during flu season.

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1.Hunker down at home if your child is sick. Now is the time to rest up in order to get back on the road to a healthy recovery. Besides, sending your child to child care or school when they are feeling under the weather will only spread the sickness to other children and staff. It’s always helpful to post a quick guideline in your home in case you’re unsure when to keep your child home. This is an example created by the Public Health in Seatte, King County. In addition, the state of Oregon Office of Education has a list of signs and symptoms of communicable diseases.

2.Always cover your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze. Start modeling and encouraging your children turn away and cover their noses and mouths with the crook of their elbows. Use a tissue to cover sneezes, too. Covering your mouth and nose with your hands only captures the germs and solidifies the possibility of children touching another source or person with those just now infected hands. Whether you use a tissue or your elbow to cover a cough or sneeze, it’s always best practice to immediately wash your hands with soap and warm water. This leads us to the next step. The CDC offers helpful diagrams and posters to show young children how to cover their noses and mouths appropriately. What a great idea to print off one and post next to the kids’ sink!

3.Wash your hands with soap and water regularly, especially after you cough or sneeze. Research
has shown that routine handwashing with soap and water is still more effective than using antibacterial hand sanitizers when fighting the spread the germs. If you do use hand sanitizers make sure to monitor your child’s use for any accidental ingestion which could lead to alcohol poisoning.

4.Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth.

5.Routinely clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may come into contact with germs. Make an effort to clean and disinfect high traffic items like toys, countertops and tables, bathroom sinks, toilets, phones, and electronic devices more frequently during flu season.

The Parenting Hub would love to help ways how you combat cold and flu season in your home. Please send your ideas and tips to:


Marion County Public Health

Preventing the Spread of Illness in Child Care or School

Information for School and Child Care Providers

Moms Against Cooties


Parenting Classes- Upgrading Our Education

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Parenting Education. Parenting Classes. Parenting Support. Whatever terminology you prefer, they all mean the same thing. . .help me I’m a parent and I’m drowning, someone throw me a lifejacket! Okay, enough with the dramatics, but I’m pretty sure there are many parents out there who have felt that way at least once. There are many different parenting curriculum offered throughout the Willamette Valley, but you must remember to choose one that will meet the needs for you and your children. Also, make sure to have an open mind to learning about content or practices that you strongly agree with or perhaps strongly disagree with. The important takeaway is to recognize that your family is unique from the next family, and that means the application of the curriculum may look different and/or have different outcomes. Below are a few evidenced-based curriculum that have shown positive results after parents have completed the course.

Make Parenting a Pleasure (in Spanish Haga de la Paternidad un Placer). This parenting curriculum has been in practice for more than 30 years. It is designed for parents who are highly stressed with children 0 to 8 years old.

Abriendo Puertas (in English Opening Doors). This curriculum is the nation’s first evidence-based comprehensive training program developed by and for Latino parents with young children between the ages of 0 and 5 years old.

Nurturing Parenting is a family-centered trauma-informed program designed to build nurturing parenting skills as an alternative to abusive and neglecting parenting and child-rearing practices.

Taking a parenting class can trigger feelings of anxiety or worry. Some parents feel like enrolling in a class may mean that they are “bad parents” or that they “can’t control their children.” Remember, we are all life learners and it’s important to stay abreast of the most recent up-to-date information on best practices for young children. We upgrade our smartphones and iphones every 2 years, right? Well, it’s important to upgrade our parenting skills, too. Parenting infants is different from parenting toddlers. Parenting toddlers is extremely different from parenting preschoolers, and so on and so on.

When you’re ready to upgrade, check out the calendar for upcoming parenting classes being offered by The Early Learning Hub of Marion & Polk County.
The Parenting Hub would love to help connect you with a parenting program that best meets your needs. Please send your inquiries to:

New school, new expectations and new routines

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Depending on where you live in the Willamette Valley, it’s possible that your child has already started kindergarten or is just on the brink of the first day of school. An entire school day may last anywhere between 6 to 6+ hours for your young child. Yes, 6 hours sounds like a lot of kid-free time to get things done around the house, run errands, or squeeze in a quick jog outside. Or let’s be honest, to just sit down and take a breather! However, it’s important to remember that while your little ones are safe in the hands of their kindergarten teacher, they are learning brand new routines that may very well coincide or even clash with routines already established in your home. Here are some examples:

Let’s pretend that prior to kindergarten, you made every effort to have your child spend playtime outside (weather permitting) before lunch. Or, let’s pretend that your child used to having an afternoon snack at home each day. Depending on your child’s kindergarten schedule, it’s possible that your child won’t be scheduled for outdoor time until the end of the day or none at all due to inclement weather. Moreover, many kindergarten classes do not regularly offer an afternoon snack to grumbling tummies. A simple solution is to gather information from your child’s teacher about the layout of the day and to ask for tips on how to help ease your child into similar routines at home. The more “in sync” the home routine can be with the school routine, the easier the transition for your child. Basically, parent-teacher communication is critical for student success.

Ask your child’s teacher for a copy of the daily schedule. You’ll be able to take the schedule home and troubleshoot potential challenges throughout the day for your child. Or better yet, anticipate fun activities. Make sure to be familiar with the school’s handbook on drop off and pick up routines, inclement weather plans, and recess times. Some schools vary their recess times based on the weather forecast. Have your teacher share with you particular phrases used throughout the daily routine. Some kindergarten teachers do a call and response of, “Kindergarten!” and the children respond, “Superstars!” to have their attention.

It’s best practice to have some consistency between home and school routines. However, keep in mind that home is still a different environment and to honor and uphold particular family routines. If home turns into too much like school, your child may not be feel safe or comfortable enough to have that unconditional “do nothing” time or freedom to just zonk out. Sometimes too much routine will feel like “too much” to a young child.

The Parenting Hub would love to hear how you maintain parent-teacher communication with your child’s school. Please send your comments and questions to:

Free Pre-School Opportunity!


Community Action still has slots available for the 2016-2017 school year in Marion and Polk Counties!

Head Start is a comprehensive preschool program serving low-income children ages 3-5, and their families. Head Start provides early childhood education, nutrition, health, mental health, disability, and family services. Family involvement is included in all aspects of the program.

Your child must be 3 or 4 years old by the kindergarten eligibility date. In Salem that is September 10 and in all areas it is September 1st.

Download an application at, Call 503-581-1152 or stop by a Head Start office to pick up an application.

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Preschool Promise


Your child deserves a high quality preschool program!

Through a grant from the state, Marion & Polk Early Learning Hub, along with many preschool programs in Marion and Polk Counties, are able to provide state-funded program that offers high-quality preschool to low-income children ages 3 and 4.

The Benefits

-Being ready for kindergarten
-More likely to be reading in the third grade
-More likely to graduate from high school
-More likely to achieve greater lifetime earnings

A quality preschool experience makes a major difference in a child’s kindergarten preparation and success in school. With Preschool Promise, families with income up to 200% of the federal poverty level are eligible for free preschool for their child. Many preschool providers in our community will be offering this program this fall.

Household Size Annual Income Household Size Annual Income
1 $23,540 5 $56,820
2 $31,860 6 $65,140
3 $40,180 7 $73,460
4 $48,500 8 $81,780


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*Fill the Application and send to 2995 Ryan Drive SE Suite 200, Salem, Oregon 97301
Info. 503.485.3219


2016 Week of the Young Child: Celebrating our Youngest Learners!

April 11, 2016 Rachelle Saceda

In 1971, The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) started a week long celebration to recognize that the early childhood years lay the foundation for children’s success in school and later years in life. This week long celebration is called “The Week of the Young Child.” It is a time to plan how we—as citizens of a community, of a state, and of a nation—will better meet the needs of all young children and their families. Early childhood professionals, community members, and children and families all over the country will take part in various fun activities to celebrate our most precious investment in a promising future—young children. The theme for 2016 is “Celebrating our Youngest Learners!” To kick off the festivities this year, the Early Learning Hub of Marion and Polk Counties is partnering with Salem Public Library to highlight some of the many different ways families can rejoice in the beauty of supporting development of young children during the the early years.

Sunday, April 10th. Make an easy do-it-yourself banner to hang in the window or outside to announce the Week of the Young Child. Cut out different shapes of cardstock or construction paper for each letter (W-E-E-K-O-F-T-H-E-Y-O-U-N-G-C-H-I-L-D-2-0-1-6). At the top of each card, use a hole puncher or make two holes at the top. Take a long ribbon, streamer, or twine to weave in and out of each hole making a long strand of the phrase. You can also use clothespins to hang drawings or pictures of your children from the banner. Be creative! Once finished, hang the banner proudly in your window or outside your front door. It will be a great way to show your community you care about youngest citizens.

Monday, April 11th. The Salem Public Library is hosting an event called Music Monday. Children and families can come sing and dance all the while developing physical skills and counting. Be ready to tap your toes and clap your hands to some jammin’ tunes! For more ideas on how to support young children in their development of music and movement click here.

Tuesday, April 12th. Taco Tuesday and early literacy! After learning some new moves and new songs on Monday, come back to the library for a healthy cooking experience where children and parents can make tacos together. It will be a great opportunity to learn about nutrition and ways to enhance a fun cooking activity by expanding language and early literacy. Moreover, the mess stays at the library so all parents and children have to do is come with empty bellies and an eagerness to participate! Need more kid-friendly cooking recipes? Here are two that are recommended by NAEYC, Corn and Bean Salsa or Black Bean Dip

Wednesday, April 13th. Who wants to build a castle? How about a bridge to the zoo or spaceship to Neptune? Wednesday is the day to be creative and BUILD! Be creative and use anything and everything (well, within what’s appropriate and safe for your child) to capitalize on the imagination and innovation of young children. Go outside and rummage through the cardboard/plastic recycle bin and watch creativity unfold as children use loose parts to build structures that will transport them to another place or time. The Salem Public Library will have a variety of materials available for young children to use if you don’t have anything readily available at home. Join us at the library to see what ideas come to life with everyday items!

Thursday, April 14th. Artsy Thursday at the Salem Public Library. Crayons and glitter and stickers, oh my! Gluesticks and paints and paper, OH MY! There will be a plethora of different art media available to young children for Thursday’s celebration of the Week of the Young Child. Your little ones will not want to miss out on the opportunity to allow their inner Picasso or Van Gogh feast on the blank paper and canvases waiting to channel their art expression. Come and take advantage of the easy, yet enriching experience that art provides in supporting the development of the whole child. If you can’t make it to the event, here are some ways that you can still make sure to provide meaningful art for your children at home.

Friday, April 15th. On Friday come to the library and check out the Discovery Room where the theme is Grocery Store. The Children’s Level at the library has many cozy areas for parents and children to spend some snuggle time together while reading a book. Story Time sessions will also be scheduled where the whole family can listen to books out loud, sing songs, and participate in music and movement. Families can share their own stories and also capture the memories of this special Week of the Young Child by taking pictures.

Saturday, April 16th. Below is a list of even more fun ways to spend the weekend celebrating the Week of the Young Child for 2016. Which one do you plan to do with your little one? The Parenting Hub would love to hear about it! Please send your stories and/or photos to:

10 Ways Babies Learn When We Sing to Them

Read and Eat

Children Learn So Much From Cooking

What’s Big Body Play and Why Is It Important?

Help Your Child Develop Fine Motor Skills

Eight Tips for Creating Homemade Books


Salem Public Library, The Lily Pad

The Week of the Young Child FAQ

Playing with Music at Home

Corn and Bean Salsa

Black Bean Dip

Theory of Loose Parts

Meaningful Art Projects that Can Fit Into a Busy Day

Personal Stories to Help Children Get Ready for School

Ages & Stages Questionnaire


STATS Without Screening With Screening Difference
Developmental Disabilities 14% -54% Identified
Sheldrickh et al, 2011
70% – 80% Identified
Squires et al, 1996
26% – 56%
Mental Health Problems 20% Identified
Lavigne et al, 1993
80% – 90% Identified
Sturner, 1991
60% – 70%

Courtesy of START, Provided by ASQ-3 Training Copyright © 2014 by Paul H. Brookes Publishing Co., Inc.

Why it’s Important:

Early learning lays the foundation for all other learning that takes place during life. In these early years, particularly from birth to three, the brain is developing pathways that allow for information to travel and be stored. It is important to measure how this is developing, so if there are any challenges, they can be addressed. Identifying challenges and creating care plans to address these, significantly increases a child’s ability to continue on a more typical path of development. The earlier a delay is identified, the better the outcome for the child.

Data also shows that the number of children identified as having a delay increases with age. This is because by the time a delay is identified in the later years, the delay is significantly impacting a child’s life; but this could have been prevented had the child been identified earlier and received appropriate care.

The purpose of the ASQ-3™ is to reveal strengths as well as areas that may benefit from extra practice or extra support. Evidence is clear, that developmental screening can assist us in getting the child help needed for appropriate care, and earlier detection can lead to more successful outcomes for children.

Check your child’s early development today!
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