First 5: Is your child ready?

By From page A7 | February 19, 2014

Raising a healthy child begins even before you hold him or her for the first time. The choices you make about things such as prenatal care, breastfeeding, doctors, child care and even bedtime stories shape your child’s future.

According to a report by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 90 percent of brain development occurs within the first five years of a child’s life and most of that occurs in the first three years. Early experiences help children shape how the brain develops — how they think, how they feel and how they grow.

From birth, children learn from you through simple activities, such as singing, talking, reading, giggling, snuggling and playing games. Every day events make a difference: reading a bedtime story each night, singing songs together in the car, sorting laundry, telling stories, or talking about vegetables at the grocery store. Children who are strongly connected to their parents and caregivers are better prepared for school.

In 1998, California voters passed Proposition 10, a tobacco tax, referred to as the Children and Families First Act. The Act establishes First 5 Commissions in each of the 58 counties whose mission is to invest in early learning programs for children ages 0 to 5 and their families.

First 5 El Dorado Commission provides funding to local agencies that deliver services through a range of programs to support healthy children, strong families and early learning. Early learning programs — preparing a child to enter kindergarten ready to learn — help families see the doctor or dentist for well-child visits, understand their child’s growth and development, gain parenting skills, read to their children each day and attend high-quality child care programs.

Here’s how you can help your child get ready:

Take your child to all well‐child visits and see a dentist by the first birthday. Children who attend well-child visits are healthier and better able to learn. First 5 El Dorado helps families with young children to find health insurance, choose doctors and dentists and encourages families to attend all well-child visits. For more information contact the Children’s Health Initiative at 1-800-388-8690 or

Read with your child each day. Reading, singing and talking with your child each day increases their ability to learn and read. First 5 El Dorado encourages families to read to their children daily by funding story times, providing books and offering early literacy activities at local libraries. Ready to Read at the library offers fun literacy activities. To find the branch nearest you call 530-621-5540 or visit

Schedule a home visit for your newborn. Families that are connected to community services have more resources to support their family. Children born in El Dorado County receive personalized community resources through a home visit by nursing staff from Marshall and Barton hospitals. For more information about scheduling a home visit for your newborn, contact Marshall Hospital at 530-626-2770, ext. 2315 or Barton Hospital at 530-543-5547.

Make sure your child is developing on track at home and as part of a high quality early care and education program. Parents who regularly screen their child’s development have a better understanding of whether they are meeting critical milestones. Through Early Childhood Specialist, First 5 El Dorado is assisting parents in conducting developmental screens and providing support for everyday parenting issues. This support is extended to early care and education providers to ensure that children have high quality early care and education programs that meet their individual needs. To arrange a developmental screen for your child, contact an Early Childhood Specialist at 530-295-2312.

Get Connected. Family support services should be tailored to meet the specific needs of families and their communities. First 5 El Dorado supports communities to become better connected by regularly bringing local partners together through community strengthening groups in each region of the county. To find resources in your community visit the Website at

As parents and caregivers, we are our child’s first teacher. Helping our children to have positive learning experiences during their first 5 years of life increases their chances of success, in and out of school.

For more information contact the commission at 530-622-5787 or visit

Kathleen Guerrero

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