Children welcome new Early Childhood Division director with Chalk the Walk

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It may seem like child’s play when you see kids running, jumping and playing — but they’re actually learning a great deal. In fact, about 95 percent of the brain’s development occurs before age five.

Chalk drawings and bubbles in the air took place on the lawn in front of the Capitol earlier Wednesday as the Department of Human Services new Early Childhood Division and its director, Kay Larson, were introduced.

“What we know now from brain science is that the brain is forming, all the neurons are connecting, between the ages of zero and five and 95 percent of that is happening between zero and five. So unless there is meaningful interaction with a child between the ages of zero and five, those neurons don’t form,” said Chris Jones, Executive Director of the Early Childhood Division.

North Dakota’s record on spending for early childhood education has not been great. A recent survey by WalletHub says the state ranks 45th in the total spending per child enrolled in preschool.

The need for early childhood education and childcare are critical parts of the state’s economic outlook. Both are needed now, and in the future, to keep North Dakota’s economy moving forward.

“We’ve been focused on childcare before this, but the COVID pandemic really accelerated the need for investments,” said Jones.

The state recently announced a partnership with Waterford to provide a free online program for children going into kindergarten next year. The program has room for about 1,200 four-year-olds.

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