As parents and caregivers, we want to create environments that help our children reach their fullest potential. We pay attention to their "firsts", chart their length and weight, and keep track of diapers and feedings. But there are also other things we can pay attention to that will ensure our little ones are progressing along the right path.

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Can your baby feel or imagine another person’s emotions? Is your toddler capable of showing sympathy for others? Some people think that kids don’t develop these abilities until after the age of three. But it isn’t true. From the beginning, babies show a remarkable sensitivity to our emotional cues, and, with our support, they can develop some pretty impressive empathic skills.

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"Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children, play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood." -Fred Rogers

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Maslow’s Hierarchy consists of five levels of human needs, generally represented in a pyramid. To fully develop emotionally, people must reach the top of the pyramid, but they have to have their more basic needs met first — physical, safety, love, and self-esteem.

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This month, we'll be focusing on developmental milestones—the things most children can do by a certain age. But it's important to remember that children do not develop according to a predetermined schedule. There is a great deal of natural variation in when children reach a certain milestone.

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As we enter a new year, the two things that Memphis and Shelby County governments spend the most money on dramatically illustrate the choices before us as a community. They are education and criminal justice.

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