The First Five Years | WYPR

The First Five Years

Wednesdays at 4:32 pm
  • Hosted by Hosted by: Linnea Anderson

"The First Five Years" is a weekly program presented by Maryland Family Network.  The series is focused on the extraordinary developmental period from birth to age five. "The First Five Years" highlights the challenges and opportunities related to nurturing young children and helping them build a solid foundation for success in school and in life.

“The First Five Years” is made possible with major support from the M&T Charitable Foundation. 

You can listen to an archive of past episodes of "The First Five Years" here.


Little ones are full of energy, excitement, and inquisitiveness. Directing that energy into productive play and safe activities can be challenging. Here are three tips to keep in mind to help you do just that. Listen here to learn more.


Nobel Prize-winning economist James Heckman says that the benefits of attending a high-quality early childhood program are so great that they positively impact at least two generations. Heckman’s research looked at a program that started five decades ago for children who attended the Perry Preschool. Now the children of those children are reaping the benefits thanks to their parents' participation. Listen now to learn more.


Racism and sexism are killing us. According to the Centers for Disease Control, black women in America die at three to four times the rate of white women during childbirth. Black babies die at twice the rate of white babies. The chronic stress black women experience from combined racism and sexism may be the reason for higher rates of pre-term birth, low-birthweight, and infant and maternal mortality among black mothers and babies. Listen here to find out why.


Workplace breastfeeding discrimination lawsuits are up 800% over the past decade. Without having access to appropriate accommodations for breastfeeding, mothers are at risk of developing painful infections and may become unable to produce enough milk to sustain a baby’s nutritional needs. Maryland does not currently have specific lactation laws in place so knowing how to accommodate nursing moms is necessary to keep them on the job. Listen now to learn more.

One in seven is pretty good odds. The Centers for Disease Control, however, report that one in seven American children has experienced abuse or neglect in some form over the past year. Whether you’re a parent, relative, friend, teacher, or neighbor, recognizing the signs of abuse and neglect can help improve a child’s chance for survival.

Books Win Out

May 1, 2019

A study at the University of Michigan’s C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital examined the effects of reading with toddlers using physical books versus reading with technology. The results show that it may be time to unplug and visit a library near you. Listen now to find out more benefits of good old-fashioned books over screens and tablets.


Half of all U.S. families has reported difficulty finding child care. According to the Council for a Strong America, the U.S. national economy loses roughly $57 billion each year as a result of child care issues. Businesses depend on employees, and employees depend on child care. It’s in everyone’s best interest to make child care a better business. Listen here to learn more.

Vision Screenings & Early Awareness

Apr 17, 2019

Look at this:  According to the American Optometric Association, infants should have their first comprehensive eye exam at six months of age, an additional exam at age three, and another before entering first grade. Can you see why this is so important? Listen here to find out more.


It’s well known that breastfeeding provides significant health benefits for newborns. Perhaps less well known is the fact that breastfeeding can offset the possible negative prenatal consequences of intimate partner violence. Listen here to learn how breastfeeding promotes a child’s physical and mental health.


Growing up near green spaces is good for mental health. In fact, the more time young children spend in nature the lower the risk of mental health issues later in life. So find the closest green space near you – whether it’s a community garden, an urban park, or a lush forest – and explore the benefits of Mother Nature. Listen now to learn more.



A recent study out of Canada has found that children who both bully and are bullied are at higher risk of experiencing childhood depression as well as depression in adulthood. Children cannot protect themselves from bullying, and should not be expected to do so. Parents, child care providers, teachers, babysitters, and pediatricians have the ability to determine the environment in which a child grows. It’s imperative that this environment exclude bullying of all types.


“Kids just want to have fun. That’s good because children learn through play. And playing with your children offers you a way to put more fun in your busy, serious life. Make time to play with a child today and as often as possible.”


During the first five years, children are learning huge amounts of information every moment. A child’s experiences in the early years actually build the brain’s architecture. Listen here to see how you can help build the foundation for a lifetime.

iStock/Steve Debenport

When it comes to knowing what preverbal babies want, parents sometimes wish the universe would give them a sign. One way of lessening the frustration may be using baby sign language. Research from the Mayo Clinic shows that babies who are exposed often and early to sign language can begin to use signs successfully by eight or nine months, right about the time children begin to know what they want.

iStock/Steve Debenport

Caring for children with disabilities and special needs takes time. It also takes patience, flexibility, and in many cases Paid Family Leave. With Paid Family Leave for working family members, these children can get the support they need while their parents have the time off needed to provide that care. The time to act is now.


Our parents and grandparents have devoted much of their lives to caring for us. With more than 43 million unpaid family caregivers in the US, the time is now to implement the benefits of Paid Family Leave. It’s now our turn to care for them, and we owe them the best care possible.


Soldiers are trained to expect the unexpected. So when caregivers needs arise or change as a result of a deployment, families need to be ready. It’s time to be Gung Ho for Paid Family Leave.


What do Papua New Guinea, Swaziland, Lesotho, and the United States have in common? They are the only four countries which do not mandate paid time off for new parents.

Get the Lead Out

Jan 30, 2019

Baltimore City saw a 97% decrease in the number of children with elevated blood-lead levels over the last 25 years. But the threat remains, and there are still too many children with dangerously high levels of lead in their system. Together let’s get the lead out and create a healthier future for our children.



It takes a lot to be a good dad – especially time. Yet while some employers recognize the importance of providing leave for men, most do not. Maryland can make the crucial time off dads need to bond with their babies the new normal. It’s time for a change. Listen here to see how we can make this happen.

Gender Stereotyping

Jan 16, 2019

Gender stereotyping plays a significant role in who our children believe they can become. But gender typecasting, often unintentional, is ingrained in our culture or family of origin and is too rarely questioned or resisted. Remember, what you say and do are the greatest influence on who your child will become.

Time to Care

Jan 9, 2019

We all need time to care – for new babies, for aging parents, for loved ones with health needs, or for healing ourselves. Yet many Americans can’t take time to care because we lack paid family leave. The United States is the only industrialized nation without paid family leave. The time for paid family leave is now.

Essay Contest

Jan 2, 2019

Each year Maryland Family Network holds an essay contest open to the parents served at our 25 Family Support Centers across the state. Here’s a quote from one of this year’s winners: “The Family Support Center is my second home…My daughter and I are living unforgettable moments, acquiring knowledge to…have a splendid future. This is like a gift that life has given me…Being here has changed my family’s life for the better.” Listen now to hear the rest.

Sleeping Stats

Dec 26, 2018

New parents often expect their baby to start sleeping through the night by six months of age. However, a large percentage of healthy babies don’t reach that milestone by six months or even by 12 months. Listen now for more information on what may be keeping you and your baby up at night.


Play is essential to all young children and toys provide opportunities to use the imagination, which leads to healthy development. Make sure you have safety as well as social and creative development in mind when you shop this holiday season.  



In 2017, the U.S. saw an increase in premature births for the third year in a row. Maryland’s preterm birth rates have followed this national trend. What can be done to combat our high infant mortality rate?


“Go to your room!” Parents are often tempted to use this age-old strategy when a child is misbehaving or having trouble managing his emotions. But does it help?

Baby Laughs

Nov 28, 2018

Audio coming soon.   

What makes a baby laugh? A comprehensive survey attempts to answer this very question. Whether tickling, peekaboo, or any other number of games or mishaps, a baby’s laughter is sometimes the best medicine.


Racism and discrimination affect people in many different ways. A recent study published in American Psychologist looks at the effects of racism on children, and the findings are stunning and concerning.

The study found that children begin to feel racial differences as early as six months old. Researchers learned that children as young as age four are aware of being discriminated against. Investigators found that the early experience of racism was linked to lower academic achievement and to an increase in mental health problems such as depression and anxiety.

Listen to learn more. 


Being a parent is a lot like being a librarian. A good librarian, like a good parent, provides you with the information to make your own choices and to follow your own interests. Listen now to learn what else good parents and librarians have in common.