Columbus Kids began providing early learning checkups to children between the ages of two and a half to four years in January of 2010. This United Way lead initiative started with thirty-five community partners and has since acquired over one hundred more. Learning checkups are designed to catch early learning delays in young children so that they will be up to speed by the time they reach kindergarten. If delays are dealt with early on then they are usually reversible, if not they will often follow a child throughout his or her school age years. According to Columbus Public Schools’ research, 40% of preschoolers entering their system require some kind of learning intervention before they begin kindergarten. This program is the first of its kind in the nation and is dedicated to promoting early learning and kindergarten readiness in order to give children the best start possible.

Initially learning checkups are facilitated by Wellness Coordinators. These dedicated men and women will work one on one with families to provide resources and referrals to help young children sharpen their skills and increase their abilities. Learning checkups involve asking children a short series of questions which help determine which areas he or she may be lagging. It takes about fifteen minutes – making it both fast and easy! For every child who completes a learning checkup receives a book and a Kroger gift card worth twenty dollars.

Facilitators look at five key areas to assess your child’s readiness for kindergarten. These areas include social-emotional development, problem solving, communication, and both large motor skills and fine motor skills. As reported by Lindsay Gudesen, a former Wellness Coordinator, the biggest problem area for kids in central Ohio lies within their fine motor skills. For those who may not know, your fine motor skills have to do with the development of small muscles in your hands. It turns out that all that time you spent discouraging your young children from playing with small objects may have actually done more harm than good. Now, I understand advising children against playing with easy-to-swallow toys. I’m sure that I swallowed tons of Polly Pockets and Barbie shoes as a kid! Unfortunately children are unable to develop proper fine motor skills without exposure to these kinds of objects. Feel free to allow children to play with smaller toys, markers, and even safety scissors as long as they are properly supervised.

Assessing these five areas can often uncover more than just minor delays. Checking your child’s large motor skills can tell you if your child’s physical body is developing properly. If your child’s communication is delayed it may mean that the real problem lies in their hearing. Finally, social-emotional development assessments can help us determine if a child is struggling with autism.

Children experience learning delays for a number of different reasons. If your child falls behind in certain areas it usually has nothing to do with your abilities as a parent or caregiver and it most certainly doesn’t mean that your child is “slow”. Let me use myself as an example, I am a perfectly intelligent college educated woman but I still can’t cut paper to save my life. Needless to say this delay set me up for a series of scrapbooking disasters and failing grades in home economic courses all throughout high school. So save your child from the embarrassment of being shamed away from craft projects and consider signing them up for a learning checkup! The most important thing to realize is that if your child is experiencing a delay then it is extremely important that they get up to speed as quickly as possible.

From two and a half to four years old children’s brains are absorbing information like a sponge. It is so important to take advantage of this stage in their development so that they are ready for the years of learning that are ahead of them. Columbus Kids and their over 150 + partners are empowering children by providing them with a foundation to grow from. Spread the word about the importance of early learning and enroll your child with Columbus Kids today!

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