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A New Spin on Day Care

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If these "rich experiences" don't take place at home, Bond says, "we find that these children do extremely well when they get into a very enriching day care environment. The teacher can instill this love of learning and can also work with parents to see the importance of this.

"We find where children come from homes were language is limited, where it is not a high priority, children may have a 3,000-word vocabulary at age 6," she tells WebMD. "In homes where language is a high priority, children will have a 20,000-word vocabulary. Language development is an important predictor in how children will succeed in school."

So what constitutes an excellent pre-K or day care program?

The best programs "look at the whole child ... at the cognitive, social, emotional, motor development ... class size, adult-child ratio," Bond says. "All of these are mutually supportive to growth and development."

Building literacy skills should be the program's foundation, Bond tells WebMD. "The curriculum should be rich in vocabulary and literacy skills ... have lots of opportunities for children to interact, read books, talk."

Good day care programs foster interpersonal relationships between teachers and children, Bond tells WebMD. "The teacher responds to the child, is so attentive to child ... and can observe and identify the child's needs and interests ... the level the child is at, where the child needs to go."

Young children are "sponges," says Bond, a former kindergarten teacher. "They're so open to learning, to discoveries. All you have to do is put that tone in your voice ... they'll rush right over. You need to make sure that what you teach ... how you teach it meets their needs. You need to make it fun."

In a good day care setting, "There's always something to learn," Bond says. "A teacher can heighten the child's understanding and knowledge through play. A child may be playing with blocks at age 2, 3, 4, but they're not going play with them in the same way at each age. The teacher can enhance this experience with blocks so the child is making discoveries about math, science, balance."

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