Annual Luncheon shows how babies learn through nurturing relationships

“If you give babies the right experiences at the right time in their development, magic happens.” — Keynote Speaker Dr. Patricia K. Kuhl

The Ounce It’s Good Business to Invest in Young Children Annual Luncheon on April 20, 2017 explored how babies are scientists, statisticians and linguistic geniuses. Dr. Patricia K. Kuhl, co-director of the Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences at the University of Washington, showed more than 800 business, civic and philanthropic leaders how we know that babies are rapidly processing the world around them—long before they can even say their first word.

“Babies’ brains are optimal windows of opportunity for various kinds of learning,” said Dr. Kuhl, who is internationally recognized for her research on early language and brain development.

She shared how childhood experiences, like hearing language or receiving a hug from a parent, alter brain connections by strengthening and pruning them. Dr. Kuhl’s research is proving that babies need language and interaction through nurturing relationships to ensure that they are learning as much as possible in their first few years of life.

“It’s not just the quantity, it’s the quality and engagement of language that boosts babies’ learning,” Dr. Kuhl explained.

Luncheon Co-chairs Nancy and Steve Crown of the Crown Family shared that their personal connection as parents and grandparents has driven them to focus on early learning and education.

“All roads led [us] to the importance of early education,” Steve Crown said. “Without a good, strong early childhood education, advancements in k-12 will be made and sustained at a much slower space.”

In fact, “Far too many young children are at risk of not getting the attention and responsiveness that their brain’s need so that they can thrive and be successful in life,” said Ounce President Diana Mendley Rauner. She added that this is why the Ounce focuses on building strong relationships—between children, parents, caregivers and teachers—in our work to help young children and families get a strong start in life.

“We’ve been able to create two generations of productive, thriving individuals who are prepared to succeed to succeed in life and in school, and to become contributing members of our society,” said Ounce Chairman of the Board Anne Lea Touhy. “Every dollar invested in early learning makes a direct impact here in Chicago and across the country.”

Couldn’t attend the luncheon in person but want to support early learning? Make a donation to the Ounce—and help set all young children on a path to success.

View our highlights video to learn more: