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Early Learning Essentials for Today and Tomorrow

Updated: Nov 29, 2022

By Dr. Joanne Foster

The earliest experiences and relationships are formative and help little ones develop neural

connections, foundational competencies, and interactive skills.

Many parents wonder how to ensure their young children have the best possible learning opportunities. Here are 8 questions and answers for parents to consider.

1. What does the best learning environment look like?

A learning environment can be any place where a person can discover something new. However, the most conducive settings are those that are safe, enabling, comfortable, and challenging. These are places where children’s questions and concerns are honored, where they feel empowered to be creative and to try different ways of learning, where they can get assistance if need be, and where, most importantly, they can play. Indeed, play (preferably unstructured and outside) enables children to learn, socialize, share, and develop skill sets. Play is the bedrock upon which all learning is built.

2. Why do my child’s interests and behaviors keep changing?

Learning needs, attitudes, and preferences change across a child’s development. Cognitive development can unfold in surprising and remarkable directions as kids mature and actively explore their world. Moreover, every home, school, family circle, neighborhood, social milieu, and learning environment has its own dynamic and mix of individuals, expectations, advantages, and drawbacks. Plus, many people of various ages and experiential backgrounds are involved in a child’s day-to-day life. Thus, a child’s interests and learning opportunities are always in flux.

3. How can parents fortify family support systems?

The best nurturing happens in the flow of daily life. Different opportunities and activities may benefit family members at different times, ages, or stages of development. So, parents may have to balance their time, resources, and attention accordingly. It’s never too early to teach children to be respectful of others within the family and beyond—including appreciating variations in people’s interests, personal attributes, and capabilities.

4. What are three top tips for parents seeking to nurture children’s learning?

i. Engage in active listening and observing. Heed what children say and do and sometimes do not say and do. Don’t just listen to respond; listen to understand.

ii. Encourage children’s efforts, not just their achievements.

iii. Demonstrate a love of learning—including the kinds of dispositions, resilience, and actions that will, in turn, serve young children well in different situations and contexts. When children see their parents enjoying learning processes such as reading, exchanging ideas, and problem-solving, it conveys a positive message.

5. What kinds of support networks should parents build?

Create connectivity with others in such areas as advocacy, early learning programs, resource sharing, and whatever else you discern as having an impact on children’s learning and healthy development. Get to know people from various walks of life. Make alliances. Ponder different points of view. Integrate perspectives. Stay in the loop. Discover websites, conferences, parenting groups, webinars, blogs, podcasts, journal articles, and workshops...There are countless resources to tap. Share the information.

6. How can parents encourage young children to strengthen their own


Help kids learn to nurture their curiosity, be open-minded, and ask questions. They can begin by asking who, what, where, when, why, and how, then continue from there. Inquiry enables even very young children to extend their understandings and to learn at a higher, broader, and deeper level. Author William Arthur Ward said, “Curiosity is the wick in the candle of learning.” Light the wick!

7. How can parents boost children’s confidence?

A good first step is to help little children recognize and understand their feelings. They may experience uncertainty, frustration, disappointment, worry, anger, excitement… All children need supportive networks and environments to help cope with the intensity of their feelings, the variety and complexity of their capacities, and the intricacies of their relationships with others. Show them how to handle emotions. It will strengthen their confidence and ability to forge ahead and enable them to be tolerant, empathic, and respectful of others.

8. Is it realistic for parents to expect very young children to reach higher and

stretch further?

Children may not be able to catch stars, count all the seashells, or climb a mountain, but there is a lot they can do if the adults in their lives encourage them to try—and believe in them. Author Lewis Carroll wrote, “Sometimes I’ve believed in as many as six impossible things before breakfast.” It’s fun and also potentially productive to ponder possibilities...

Last Words

We each create our own destiny, and we become who we are based on how we assemble

the many pieces of life’s puzzles, over time.

Parents are uniquely positioned to support and strengthen their child’s learning curves. The best way to do this is to model and embrace a desire to learn and to promote knowledge acquisition through play, family interaction, inquiry, and day-to-day experiences. And what could be better than learning together? Cherish the time spent confronting and assembling life’s puzzle pieces, and make the moments count—from infancy, through toddlerhood, into preschool and beyond.


Dr. Joanne Foster is a parent, a multiple award-winning author, and has worked in the field of gifted education and child development for over three decades. She wrote the ABCs of Raising Smarter Kids: Hundreds of Ways to Inspire Your Child; as well as Bust Your BUTS: Tips for Teens Who Procrastinate, and Not Now, Maybe Later: Helping Children Overcome Procrastination. She is co-author (with Dona Matthews) of Beyond Intelligence: Secrets for Raising Happily Productive Kids. and their most recent book is Being Smart about Gifted Learning, 3 rd Edition. You’re invited to visit Dr. Foster’s website at,

Also, visit Gifted Unlimited for a 20% discount on these and other books:

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