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When does learning begin? Some think that learning begins when a child goes to school. Some think it begins when a child can talk. Some say it begins before that, even before a child is born.

Learning happens when the environment allows it and the individual takes advantage of it. It is up to the parent or teacher to create the right environment and support the learning experience. We canít learn for the child, and we canít force learning to happen. It occurs naturally, when the conditions are right. As mothers and fathers, we try to provide our children with proper nutrition, good health, and an environment that supports learning. We do this from the very start. When kids are born, they are in fact homeschooled from birth!

Even when I was pregnant, my husband and I talked to our child, read to our child, and listened to music together. Other people talked to the baby too, rubbed my stomach and felt a kick. On our first walks, while the baby snuggled in a front carrier, I pointed out the birds and flowers by name. In the supermarket, wedging my baby in the cart seat, I rattled off the name of every vegetable as we passed the produce counter, watching my baby barely able to keep his head upright, bobbing along with each new bit of information. We watched sunsets and explored beaches together. We went to the library for toddler story-time, and brought home new books each week. At home we finger-painted, made our own play-dough, sang silly songs, and laughed a whole lot.

Favorite spots included the Discovery Room at the AMNH, the NY Hall of Science, parks and playgrounds, and the Bronx Zoo. Here is a list of the best in NYC for the very young.

Encourage lots of physical activities and free play. Talk to your child! Introduce new words, count the items you touch, name their colors, feel the textures, note the smells, and describe the images you see. Go on a sensory adventure together, and discover, learn, explore! Most of all, have fun!

New York is a great city for preschoolers! Here is a tempting list for youngsters and their adult companions (older siblings will also find something to enjoy at most of these places). Many of the offerings listed here are free, but some charge admission. Check each link for details.

Guidelines for creating your own preschool co-op

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Check out the amazing activities (mostly free) at the NYPL!

  • Toddler story time and other activities at various branches – see the Calendar
  • Subscribe to their family e-newsletter
  • At the Stephen A. Schwartzman Bldg. (42nd St.) – Preschool storytime (ages 3-5), Mondays 4 - 4:30 pm; Movies for ages 2-8, Wednesdays 2 - 3 pm; Toddler Storytime (ages 18 mos. - 3): Thursdays, 10:30 - 11, and 11:30 - noon. Tickets first-come, first-served.
  • Hudson Park Library in the West Village at 66 Leroy St., Manhattan, is a great place for toddlers, complete with rug, blocks, puzzles, slide, play kitchen, and an outdoor playground. There are little tables in the library where young children are allowed to eat snacks. And sometimes they bring out the "water table" and aprons to play. Toddler story times are Tuesdays at 12:15 and Tunes for Tots is Fridays at 3:30 (call for info (212) 243-6876).
  • Tales for ages 18 mos - 3 at 203 W. 115th St. NYPL branch, 11:30 am, Thursdays.

Check with your local branch to see what's happening there!

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READ Early and Often!

I must confess that I was probably reading Dylan Thomas to my babies, and whatever words moved me at the time. I never limited myself to children's books, although we spent plenty of time with them too. I also made personalized books for my sons – here is a page explaining how to make your child's reading primers

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Activity Books for preschoolers (and their parents)

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Recommended magazines for the very young

Everyone likes to get a magazine in the mail, even babies and toddlers. In fact, young children get a special thrill out of seeing their name on an address label. You can check out an issue on-line, or get a sample issue for free, or browse them at your local library, before you subscribe. As my kids got older, they chose they own annual subscriptions. In his teens, one chose Astronomy Today, for example.

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Websites and curricula for preschool learning updated

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Art games for young children

The links below are to free online games. And here is a recipe for making your own playdough.

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Music, Dance, and Theater

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Parks, Playgrounds, & Playgroups

Each playground has its own unique style. Many are worth a trip. Also see Pre-School Playgroups, etc..

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Three museums in NYC designed just for young children are the Brooklyn Children's Museum, CMOM, and the Children's Museum of the Arts.

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If there is something you would like to see added to this list, send an email.

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Articles, blogs, etc. on early childhood education and homeschooling the very young

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If you have any suggestions for additions to this page, please send an email.

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