From birth, parents begin to engage their children in learning and play a vital role in helping young children get ready for success in school. Daily interactions help to stimulate a child’s curiosity and nurture a lifelong love of learning. They include:
- Talking and reading to children regularly.
- Ensuring positive interactions with children.
- Helping children develop positive social relationships with family members and others.
- Establishing routines and helping children to complete tasks.
Families also play a central role in ensuring their children’s health, safety and wellbeing – essential components of a child’s school readiness. This includes:
- Taking children for regular vision, dental and medical screenings.
- Tapping available resources early for children with special needs.
- Ensuring access to nutritious food.
- Establishing regular bedtime routines to ensure adequate sleep.
- Providing a safe and secure environment at home, in the car and throughout the day.
Often, children who are ready to begin kindergarten demonstrate some of the following characteristics and behaviors:
- Show curiosity about the world around them.
- Enjoy interacting with books.
- Engage in drawing and writing.
- Count and use numbers.
- Cooperate well with others.
- Engage in regular physical activity.
- Show pride in their accomplishments.
The Commonwealth of Virginia, like many states, has its own Quality Rating and Improvement System, now referred to as Virginia Quality.
Virginia Quality is a statewide system designed to assist early care and education programs in their efforts to assess, improve and communicate the level of quality of their services. This system defines standards, creates a framework for accountability and establishes a network of support and outreach for programs that families consider for their children. Participation is voluntary.
Center-based and family child care home programs participate in Virginia Quality. Program goals include:
- Ensuring that the best possible early learning experiences are available for young children and families through high quality early care and education programs.
- Providing information and support to early childhood programs and professionals to improve and sustain the quality of their programs.
- Providing families with resources to identify and select a high quality program that is best for their children.
When searching for quality early care and education programs, consider programs that:
- Are regulated because regulated programs are inspected, monitored and receive training and technical assistance.
- Employ caring individuals who are educated in child development and early childhood education.
- Employ teachers and administrators experienced in working with children younger than six years of age.
- Enable staff to participate in regular professional development opportunities.
- Maintain ratios and group sizes mandated by state licensing.
- Use a play-based, child-centered curriculum in a learning environment that is organized by learning centers.
- Are accredited through the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) or the National Association for Family Child Care (NAFCC).
It is important that children receive physical, dental, vision and developmental screenings to ensure that any challenges are identified early and are properly addressed. Support for their well-being is an important aspect of preparing young children for success in kindergarten and throughout their lives. The Fairfax County Health Department provides many programs that protect and improve public health, including good medical care and information on how to make healthy choices.
Children with Special Needs
Services for children with special needs are available from the Fairfax County Public Schools when they are two-years old by September 30. Parents can access preschool special education services through ChildFind. For more information search the school system website for "Early Childhood Identification and Services." For children younger than two years of age who may have a delay or disability, parents should contact the Infant and Toddler Connection of Fairfax/Falls Church at 703-246-7121. For more information, please contact your pediatrician or the Fairfax County Health Department.
Children begin preparing to read long before they start school. The Fairfax County Public Library offers many programs and resources for children starting at birth that can help to foster a love of reading.
- "Helping Your Child Love to Learn" *
- "Stepping into Kindergarten: A School Readiness Guide for Families" *
- "Virginia Foundation Blocks for Early Learning" *
- "Milestones of Child Development" *
- "Tapping into Technology: Connecting Children, Teachers and Families in the Digital Age" *
- School Readiness Books for Early Childhood Professionals and Parents. *
Quality Options for Income-Eligible Families
Families with low income may wish to explore some of the following quality family child care or center-based programs to determine eligibility and/or child care subsidy: