Thanks to new technology and studies, scientists understand more about children’s brains than ever before. With every new study, the incredible development happening in a child’s early years becomes more and more apparent.

According to the National Education Association, the first few years of a child’s life are critical to the development of social skills, cognitive skills and a variety of other areas that will benefit them later in life.

The environment that children grow up in lays the foundation for their future success, from their academic path through their careers.

On April 16, The San Diego Foundation hosted a community event focused on the topic of early childhood education and development to increase dialogue about what San Diegans can do to strengthen opportunities for local children and families.

Hosted in collaboration with the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, the event brought local experts and community leaders together to watch the film, No Small Matter, and engage in thoughtful conversation about how to improve San Diego systems and programs.

The film explains how the experiences we have in the first five years of life shape our brains and bodies in profound and lasting ways.

Using cutting-edge technology, neuroscientists like the ones at the Institute for Learning and Brain Sciences in Seattle are starting to unlock the secrets of the infant brain, recording in real time how hearing a song, seeing a face, or feeling a touch changes the brain. What the research has revealed is that it’s not flashcards or fancy apps that help build a healthy brain—it’s every day, back-and-forth interactions with loving, supportive adults.

In the first five years, being taught and being taken care of are one in the same, and “school” can be anywhere with anyone.

Improving Systems

Once the film was over, San Diego leaders took to the stage to dive deeper into the findings from the film.

The panel, which included Todd Gloria, State Assemblymember for the 78th District; Alethea Arguilez, Executive Director at First 5 San Diego; Laura Kohn, Director of the Center for Local Income Mobility at San Diego Workforce Partnership; and moderator Sara Libby, Managing Editor at Voice of San Diego, discussed ways to improve local efforts and what the future of early childhood care should look like.

Arguilez explained that change starts in the home, stating, “You can’t transform the lives of children unless you transform the lives of families.”

As the film showed, early childhood development happens everywhere and parents need the tools and support to place their kids in positive, engaging environments, whether that is in the home or in classroom settings.

The leaders recognized how awareness is only the beginning. The cost of child care is a major barrier for working parents and Kohn explained that we need to increase funding for teachers and administrators, while decreasing the costs associated with care, to improve the system for all.

Lastly, Gloria emphasized the importance of availability of care. “There are not nearly enough spots for children that need them,” concluded Gloria. “I hear about this challenge with my family, my staff members and I know how important it is.”

Investing in the Future

The event placed a spotlight on what more we can do as community members to support current and future generations. Early childhood care and education is essential to the health, development and future success of San Diego children and the regional economy.

Children who are provided with early education opportunities do better in school as they grow older and are more likely to attend college and be prepared for careers in the workforce.

Help San Diego children and invest in early childhood education programs.

Donate to early childhood education and development