For Parents


Early Learning

From the minute your child is born, they are constantly learning – about you, themselves, and the world around them.

Check out the resources below to find ways to encourage your little one’s curiosity and strengthen their early learning skills. You’ll also find helpful resources on selecting a high-quality preschool program and preparing for kindergarten.

Boost Brainpower From Birth

You are your child’s first teacher, but you don’t need a lesson plan or the latest toys to teach him or her new things - just your words, songs, and love!  

From day one, you can teach your little one new language skills just by sharing loving, everyday moments.  Below are some simple ways to exercise your baby’s brain and help it grow bigger and stronger!


  • Use everyday moments, like grocery shopping or bath time, as a time to talk with your child about the world around him.  For example, “Do you see the orange carrot?”
  • When talking to your baby, smile often and use a cheerful voice.
  • Repeat your child’s sounds and say simple words that start with those sounds.  For example, if your child says “bah” say “bottle.”
  • When your baby looks at something, point to it and talk about it.


  • Make sharing a book a time to bond by snuggling with your baby in your lap.
  • Read your child’s favorite books again and again, the connections in his brain will become stronger.
  • Point to pictures in the book and identify objects you see in the story, “I see a girl holding a purple ball.”
  • Read books with rhythm, rhymes, and sounds.


  • Sing to your baby rather than just playing recorded music, he will be soothed by the sound of your voice. 
  • Sing slowly so your baby can hear and begin to recognize each word.
  • Sing songs with simple rhymes and rhythms.
  • Not sure where to start?  Try these classic songs or make up your own: You Are My Sunshine, Mary Had a Little Lamb, The Wheels on the Bus, and I’m a Little Teapot.
Click here for more Talk. Read. Sing tips

Selecting a Preschool Program

When your child is between the ages of 2 ½ and 3, you will have the option to place him or her into a preschool classroom.  Studies show that children who attend high-quality preschool have higher math and reading skills, are better prepared for kindergarten, behave better in class, and are even more likely to graduate from high school and go on to college. 

How do you select the best program for your child?

There are many factors to consider when looking for the right preschool, and it may take time to find the right one for you and your little one. When choosing a preschool for your child, look for one that will help your child learn at his or her own pace – but remember, children learn through play and preschool should be fun! 

When comparing different programs, here are a few things to consider:


  • Ask the preschool director about teacher qualifications, such as the number of teachers who have completed college courses or degrees in early childhood education.
  • How long have the teachers worked at the school?
  • Have the teachers been trained in CPR, first aid, and poison control?
  • When visiting the program, see how teachers interact with the kids, are they affectionate and enthusiastic? Do teachers get down on the floor and play with the children?
  • How do teachers handle conflict and discipline?
  • Check to see how many teachers there are per class.  There should be 1 teacher for every 10 children.


  • High-quality preschools should have lesson plans available for parents to read, so you can see what your child will learn throughout the year.
  • A quality curriculum should have a mix of activities, from solving puzzles to playing outside.
  • Also check to see that there are a variety of learning opportunities for your child to be taught in a class setting, a small group, and one-on-one with the teacher.

Classroom Environment

  • Does the classroom have separate learning areas for writing, art, and reading?
  • Is there a good playground?  Do children play inside and outside every day?
  • Does the classroom have lots of books and educational toys such as blocks and puzzles?
  • Are lunches and snacks healthy? Are food preparation areas clean?
  • Do most of the children seem happy and involved in activities?
  • Are the classroom rules fair and are teachers consistent in enforcing the rules with all children?
  • Do teachers help misbehaving children learn how to act the next time, telling the child what behavior is expected?
  • Do teachers use positive discipline words? "Remember to walk into our classroom" is better than "No running.”
  • Are children with disabilities and other special needs included and supported?

Parent Engagement

  • Do teachers and parents share information about the child both at scheduled meetings and when parents are dropping off or picking up their children?
  • Do teachers share written information and assessments on the child's development ing up?
  • Are parents encouraged to drop in at any time throughout the day? It is better when parents are involved.
  • When visiting the program, see how teachers interact with the kids, are they affectionate and enthusiastic? Do teachers get down on the floor and play with the children?
  • Do parents help in the classroom by bringing in special activities, books, or songs?

Free preschool programs are available in Santa Clara County for families who qualify. Click here to learn more about the Head Start program and the eligibility requirements. 

Preparing for Kindergarten

Starting kindergarten is an exciting adventure for kids and families! It is a new beginning for learning and for developing  friendships, confidence, and independence.

It is normal for both you and your child to have questions and even feel anxious about starting school.

FIRST 5 Santa Clara County, in collaboration with First 5 San Mateo County, the Heising-Simons Foundation, and the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, is pleased to provide this handbook to help you prepare your child for a successful launch into the kindergarten adventure!

Inside, you’ll find information about: 

  • The steps to enrolling in kindergarten
  • What is expected in kindergarten and transitional kindergarten
  • Skills that will ensure your child’s success
  • How to prepare yourself and your child for a successful kindergarten adventure
  • Information on afterschool childcare and tips for building successful routines


Download “Are You Ready Kindergarten Handbook

English  |  Spanish

Early Learning Podcasts

Check out our early learning podcasts to learn simple ways to help strengthen your child’s early literacy skills, ensure they are prepared for success in kindergarten, and much more!

View Podcasts

Early Literacy

Reading to young children helps build essential skills for school and life. Not only is reading fun, research shows young children who spend time reading with their families enter kindergarten better prepared. Listen to our podcast on the value of early literacy.

Early Learning and Literacy Development

Featuring Diane W. Frankenstein
Author of Reading Together: Everything You Need to Know to Raise a Child Who Loves to Read

Early language and literacy development begins in the first three years of life and is closely linked to a child’s earliest experiences with books and stories.

The interactions that young children have with such literacy materials as books, paper, crayon and with the adults in their lives are the building blocks for language, reading and writing development.

This relatively new understanding of early literacy development complements the current research supporting the critical role of early experiences in shaping brain development.

Kindergarten Readiness

True or false? The most prepared kid for kindergarten is the smartest? Listen to find out the answer.

Transitional Kindergarten

For the first time in over sixty years, California’s kindergartens will undergo a significant change. Tune in to hear from California State Senator Joe Simitian, the man behind the Kindergarten Readiness Act — coming to your school this year.