Boston Basics

The Basics Inc. works to provide all parents in Boston with the tools, training, resources, and supports to make the Basics–five simple, research-based practices–part of their child’s everyday life. Since we began in 2014, our mission has been to change how whole communities support early childhood parenting and caregiving by mobilizing existing social and organizational networks to embed the Basics routinely in their everyday interactions with parents and caregivers.

The Basics are five parenting practices distilled by Dr. Ron Ferguson, faculty director at Harvard’s Achievement Gap Initiative (AGI), with help from national childhood development experts. The Basics – Maximize Love, Manage Stress; Talk, Sing, and Point; Count, Group, and Compare; Explore through Movement and Play; and Read and Discuss Stories – capture much of what evidence indicates is most important for early cognitive development.

Why the Basics matter: Over 80% of brain growth happens in the first three years of life; gaps in cognitive development and learning appear by age 2 and persist once children enter formal schooling. During this period, developmental skill gaps emerge among children from different racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic backgrounds. Research has identified a number of early childhood experiences that contribute to these gaps. If the norms and routines of early parenting include the Basics, far more children will be prepared to succeed at school, with far fewer falling off track before they reach kindergarten. Achievement will be higher among children from every background, and performance gaps by race, ethnicity, and socio-economic status will greatly diminish.

The Basics encompass much of what science shows is important for development from birth to age 3. They are designed to be practiced by anyone, with any level of educational attainment and income, and anywhere, from a homeless shelter to a mansion and every possible setting in between. There are NO barriers to practicing the Basics; it takes no special skill, no degree, no expensive toys or tools. All materials – videos, tip sheets, group presentation guides, implementation rubrics – are available at no cost, currently in three languages (English, Spanish, Haitian Creole) with more to come.

This is the first year funding Boston Basics. Hestia’s $25,000 grant will support optimizing early childhood brain growth through enhanced services at community health centers.