Vickey Siggers: A Boston Basics Star

Vickey Siggers is a star in the Boston Basics firmament. She coordinates the Boston Family Engagement Network, Mattapan Hugs and Play groups, and the Mattapan Food and Fitness Coalition. She also conducts Welcome Baby visits and trains a cadre of local residents as Parent Partners. Vickey is based at the Boston Family Engagement Network and is a proud grandmother to her four-year-old grandson. Today Vickey talks to us about how the Basics affects her life and work, personally and professionally.

Vickey Siggers with her 4-year-old grandson. Photo Credit: Vickey Siggers

Welcome Vickey! When did you first hear about the Boston Basics?

Being part of the Boston Family Engagement Network, we were invited to the Boston Basics launch about three years ago.

There were a lot of similarities with some of the work that we were already doing. So, I found that it was a really useful tool. The team had lots of information, handouts, and I especially loved the videos.

What did you love about the videos?

A few of the scenes were filmed in Ryan Park, which is a place I take my grandson. I loved that they included people who lived in the community, some of whom I knew. It made me feel comfortable sharing the videos with our families.

That's powerful to be able to show families locally-produced resources and Boston residents practicing the Basics. You mentioned there were some similarities with the work you were already doing. What do you mean?

Talk, Read, Play is a campaign, sponsored by Countdown to Kindergarten with similar ideas, such as emphasizing to parents that they are their child’s first teacher. They also help families understand the importance of engaging with their children.

I never want to make parents feel like they are doing something wrong. I always want to make sure I am celebrating what they are doing, as well as offering other options to hopefully make their lives a little easier.

Some moms have only been here [in Boston] for a few months and don’t have anyone to go to for support. My job is to help them celebrate being a parent.

In doing this, I’ve had to learn about different cultures and how others parent differently.

Can you talk about some of the ways culture plays into your work with families?

That was something I had to learn. I really had to step back and look at myself because I couldn’t understand the challenges some parents had when it came to engaging with their child, in ways that recognized their incredible power as the child’s first teacher. After talking with several families, I realized that they were not raised like that, and it’s not how they do things in their culture.

For example, I found that some people with Caribbean backgrounds view teachers as trusted guides, similar to priests and nuns. That means they see their responsibility as parents as more focused on clothing and feeding their child rather than “teaching.”

My goal is to help parents understand that it’s okay to be down on the floor with their child, reading or playing with them. A lot of parents didn’t know that they can start reading to their child when the child is in the belly. They looked at me like I was crazy.

Over time, I explain that reading helps a child’s vocabulary grow. That helps them to be school ready. I explain that we don’t want our children to be behind. We don’t want them to struggle. We want their academic experience to be a positive one that they will enjoy.

Since most of your families come from cultural backgrounds outside the U.S., how long does it take them to be receptive to the Basics?

Getting families to come to our playgroups is an important first step.

Story time at the Mattapan Playgroup

Storytime at the Mattapan Playgroup. Photo Credit: Vickey Siggers

We may get a referral or I may personally see someone at the laundromat or grocery store. I then give them information on the services we offer like Welcome Baby, which is a home visit where we bring families a bag full of diapers, books, and other items for their child.

As a follow-up, we invite them to the playgroup. Some families don’t come, but a lot do. And once families visit, they keep coming back every week. While they are there, we are constantly using elements of Boston Basics.

Which one stands out for you?

Maximizing love and managing stress is all about self-care. So, we started doing baby yoga every other month with the families. It was supposed to be the mom or dad doing yoga with the baby, but most of the time it’s just the parent needing the yoga. (laughs)

When parents take care of themselves, all the other things—reading, pointing, and singing—become more enjoyable.

Photo Credit: Mattapan Playgroup Facebook Page with permission from Vickey Siggers

Yes! Self-care is super important and I'm happy you prioritize that with your families! What does “Read and Discuss Stories” look like at your group?

At our Friday playgroup, most of the families that come are Haitian, and their English is limited. One recent Friday, we were reading and the parents started reading along. Since we had read the book so many times, the families were able to recognize the words. The person who was reading actually stopped and started pointing to the words so that the parents could read them to their children.

I was so happy to see that, I cried. That showed me this work is not just about child development. I saw our playgroups help parents develop new skills as well.

I ordered extra copies of the book so that families could take it home and continue to read it to their children.

Wow! Talk about impact. That would make me cry too.

Another Basic we incorporate is singing, but when I would sing nursery rhymes, families didn’t join in. These were families that spoke English. Finally, one of the moms told me, “We don’t know these nursery rhymes.” And I said, “Oh!”

I assumed families from Haiti, Jamaica, and other Caribbean countries knew the nursery rhymes, but they didn’t. I created a little booklet so that they could take it with them and sing the songs at home.

Even with count, group, and compare, I’ve learned to take that concept and turn it into something that is understandable for our families. And once I explain the importance of the Basics, they embrace it.

It's nice that you're able to incorporate the Basics using American culture. Are you able to use elements of Caribbean culture when implementing them?

Yes! We’ve been learning some Caribbean nursery rhymes as well, like “Uncle Bouki” from Haiti.

The Mattapan playgroup is growing and I often get compliments like, “Vickey, the playgroup is really good.” And I usually respond, “Thank you for the compliment, but the reason why it’s doing well is because it’s needed in the community.”

Mattapan PlaygroupFamilies at the Mattapan Playgroup. Photo Credit: Vickey Siggers


You are doing a great job! While the Basics are offered in different languages, I appreciate how you mold them to fit your families' needs. You mentioned you have a grandson. I'm curious to know how you use the Basics with your own family?

My grandson is 4, soon to be 5. Exploring through movement and play is my favorite with him, especially at this age. When he’s with me, I make sure we walk down to Ryan Park, even if it’s just for one hour. We also take advantage of the Greenway (the walking path). We stop, look, and point at things. We count the leaves and compare their colors.

My grandson is very articulate. We often have conversations with him, making sure to introduce new words and ideas.

We have discussions about the books we read. Goodnight Gorilla is one of his favorites. We read it many times! When I read and ask questions, he’ll say, “Mimi, could you just please read the story?” (laughs)

I just go with the flow. But what’s interesting is that every time we look at the pictures we see something different. He said, “I never saw those bananas hanging from that cage.” And I said, “Neither did I.”

As a grandparent, it’s so different. I never knew love like this (laughs). Before, I knew you were supposed to read to your children and take them to the park, but to now understand all the developmental reasons why really brings it full circle for me. As a grandparent, I get a second chance at this (laughs).

Thank you Vickey! Your grandson is so blessed to have you and our community is blessed to have you too!

Aww. Thank you!

The Basics are offered in English, Spanish and Haitian Creole to meet the language needs of our families. Visit our website to get our free online toolkit for your community. You can also follow the Basics on Facebook, Twitter, and sign up to receive our newsletter. To connect with Vickey Siggers and learn more about her work in the community, email

This interview was conducted by Dominique, blogger behind DommiesBlessed.

Program Director Haji Shearer is Our Man on a Mission

Program Director of the Boston Basics since September 2017, Haji Shearer is the former Director of the Fatherhood Initiative at Children’s Trust, published author, mindfulness advocate, and father of two adult children.

In our conversation he shares how he got involved with the Basics, and how he helps organizations integrate the five core principles into their daily work with families.

Welcome Haji! Please tell us how you learned about the Basics and came to join the team.

I met Ron Ferguson, director of the Achievement Gap Initiative (AGI) at Harvard University, and founder of the Boston Basics, at the Massachusetts Fatherhood Leadership Summit in April of 2017. I was intrigued by what Ron was doing with the Basics and wanted to get involved. I followed up, and while I thought that I was persuading the Basics team to create a position for me, it turns out they already knew they wanted to hire me.

Wow. That's great! What did you think you could bring to the initiative?

The Basics grew out of Ron’s work with the Achievement Gap Initiative. When I met him, the Basics wanted to build a strong presence in the community to support partners in adopting and sustaining the Basics in their programs. Because of my work in the community for 25 years, I knew I could be the right messenger. I’m a licensed social worker with a family systems approach who’s also an experienced trainer and interested in how the entire community can support child development. When I started in the early 90s, it was clear to me that fathers greatly impact children’s lives but weren’t adequately included in parent support programs. And because nature abhors a vacuum, I decided to fill the void. Family support with an emphasis on fathers was a great niche for me.

I worked on fatherhood initiatives for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts for over a decade, providing professional development and technical assistance. I’d covered center-based programs, home visiting programs with young families, and school systems, so I understood the range of professionals who work with families.

The Basics can reach families in all these areas to give children a strong start in life. Being an unrepentant trainer, I’m excited to help build capacity to make it happen!

Now that you are on the Basics team, what has the feedback been from fathers you've met?

Across the board, both moms and dads are happy to have a clear approach—we call it a fun, simple and powerful approach—to parenting young children. Fathers, and mothers, are happy to see dads featured in our videos and other materials. Dads aren’t in the videos as an afterthought, they are there because the Basics team wanted fathers citywide to know that they are important. And when dads see themselves in the videos, it makes them feel good even if their own fathers weren’t involved in their lives. It’s great modeling to see other men talking about and demonstrating how important being a father is.

You are right. Examples of fatherhood in the family unit are so important. I'm happy the feedback from moms and dads alike has been positive. Earlier you mentioned helping build capacity to share the Basics. How do you measure that?

One way, is that we have developed a rubric that helps organizations identify their maturity in implementing the Basics. It’s a scale from one to four. Level one is “Pre-Implementation,” meaning the organization is just beginning to learn about the Basics but hasn’t really taken any steps to implement them. Level four, “Mature Implementation,” means that the Basics are used systematically—that they are institutionalized—across the organization. For example, there is a point person who really owns the project and actively supports staff to embed the Basics into their work. The videos are used to spark conversations with parents; there are Basics posters and printed materials in common areas; staff are leading parent groups using the Basics, or providers are talking with parents about these principles when they come in for well-baby or school visits. That’s actually the most common way, just building it into conversations. Organizations may also share information about the Basics on social media or other platforms where they communicate with families.

We want to make it easy. Part of my job is making organizations aware of the free tools that are available, as well as helping them figure out where they can implement these tools in work with families.

Nice! So you are working with established organizations. Why would a provider choose to integrate the Basics into their work?

A powerful aspect of the Basics is that they are recognizable ideas that most early childhood educators have been talking about already. The beauty of the Basics is that starting from the scientific studies that proves their importance, the AGI codified language that we can use in lots of different places. Folks in every part of the community can use the same words to talk about these weighty ideas in a way that feels natural, but that’s also pretty comprehensive. The language makes it simple for people in faith communities, housing developments, health centers--everywhere that families with young children interact--to be confident in talking about early childhood development.

For example, people have been talking about early childhood literacy for years. Having videos and tip sheets that parents can use to encourage them to not just read to their kids, but to discuss the stories with their children as well, is a value added.

Same thing with counting, grouping and comparing. It’s not just about counting fingers and toes, which is great by itself. But also encouraging parents to compare sizes of objects, talk about different shapes, and play games involving grouping and regrouping objects. These are all simple ideas that build strong brains.

A great technique in helping providers share the Basics with parents is reinforcing what parents already do well. We reinforce the importance of maximizing love and managing stress and help providers feel confident talking with parents about it. Asking questions like, what are you doing to manage your stress is critical, because we know when parents are stressed it gets passed along to their children. It’s essential to create space in professionals' daily interactions with parents to talk about these powerful topics.

To build relationships with the greatest number of families, our approach is to reach out to trusted leaders in the community because they are the ones who already have rapport with parents.

I like that the Basics team focuses on building rapport and engaging trusted messengers in the community. As the Program Director, do you have any interesting partnerships that you are working on right now?

Haji Shearer (center in blue shirt) with leaders from Community Based Organizations. Photo Credit: Mari Barrera

One interesting partnership is captured in this photo, at an orientation meeting last month with staff from six organizations we’re working with thanks to a grant from Boston Children’s Hospital’s Collaboration for Community Health. Three health centers (Codman Square Health Center, Mattapan Community Health Center and the South End Health Center) are linked with three early learning centers (Mattapan Head Start, Epiphany Early Learning Center and Harrison Ave Head Start) to share the Basics with families in their care. In this project, we partner with Families First. While our organization trains staff to share the Basics with parents, Families First provides an in-depth exposure to the Basics for about 20 families in each neighborhood cohort in their Power of Parenting program.

I am also very engaged in East Boston, which is an active hub for activities around early childhood development. The Family Engagement Network, through the leadership of East Boston Social Centers, has been a key early adopter in helping spread the Basics.

Left to right: Ron Ferguson; Gloria Devine and Justin Pasquariello – East Boston Social Centers; Haji Shearer; Magda Rodriguez, Families First

I love it. So how is implementation going overall?

Great! We recognize this kind of public health approach to social change takes time, but we’re seeing progress every day. While most of my work is directly with the provider community, it also brings me joy to work directly with parents of young children. I love hearing parents say, “I never thought of that!” or “I plan to do more of that (Basic),” or “I’m so happy to have these tools.” I’m excited to be able to promote something that brings more goodness, health, and wellness to the world, and that’s what the Basics approach does.

Thank you Haji for sharing how the Basics is supporting Boston's children and families! How can a provider that wants to become involved get in touch?

They can reach out to me directly by email Even before that, they can visit our free toolkit online, follow us on Facebook and sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date on what’s going on with the Boston team.

This interview was conducted by Dominique, blogger behind DommiesBlessed.

Clara Angelina Diaz, Mom Of A Toddler, Joins Our Team

The Boston Basics is excited to introduce its newest member, Clara Angelina Diaz! As a mom of a three-year-old, parent educator, author, and life coach, Clara brings a fresh and practical perspective to the team. In our interview, Clara touches on where she learned about the Basics, how she became involved, and what she hopes to contribute.

Clara Angelina Diaz with her three-year-old daughter. Photo credit: Haji Shearer

Hi Clara! Would you mind telling us, what you hope to bring to the team?

The Basics is growing in many different layers - locally, nationally, and internationally. As a team, we are trying to give every child what they deserve - a powerful start. I am so proud to be part of this movement! My contribution is being a multicultural and bilingual resource and model to other parents - to show them that this simple, fun, and powerful approach works. Second, I’ll help to train and coach community leaders such as doctors, nurses, and day care directors to share and model the Basics with every person who cares for a family with children. And I am so excited to be a part of this team!

When did you first hear about the Basics?

When I was pregnant with my daughter, I really wanted to prepare for parenthood. I asked my mentors and other people I respected for ideas. One of my mentors mentioned the Boston Basics as “the thing” to do for kids. After I looked into using the Basics, I started seeing the billboards and subsequently became a bilingual parent educator at Families First, where the Boston Basics is used in their parenting education curriculum. And I use them with my daughter every day.

Fast forward two years, Haji Shearer, The Basics Program Director, visited a parenting class I was teaching. He invited me to speak at the Basics Leadership conference on how I was sharing the Basics with a group of 24 Hispanic mothers. This opportunity was a great alignment for me because not only do I practice the Basics, but now I have the opportunity to have a larger influence in the world by training leaders in this life changing opportunity for children.

Wow, so you knew about the Basics before you gave birth? Now that you have been using the Basics for a few years, which one of the Basics would you say comes most naturally to you?

(Laughs). I don’t know if any of these come naturally to me. Being a great parent is not an easy task. I can tell you which one I enjoy the most because I think all of them require work and a conscious effort.

My favorite is Maximize Love, Manage Stress. One of the suggestions on the tip sheet for this Basic practice is to “have a routine.”

I remember when bedtime was not my favorite part of the day with my daughter. After two years of being a first time parent, I have come to enjoy this part of the day, specifically on Monday nights when her dad works late. He does bedtime mostly every other night now. Angie knows exactly what comes after each step in the routine: dinner, play, bath, pajamas, book and or story time, shadow animals to say good night and a few back rubs.

I have learned to do the following and now enjoy bedtime.

Preparing myself:

I have learned to prepare internally for this peaceful time, by having a clear cut off time for my work, thinking and home responsibilities. I literally tell myself, “Okay Clara, it’s bedtime. Take a few deep breaths.” Shifting my energy in this way has proven to be effective. My daughter now takes a bath with a smile and leads the routine by reciting to me what is next in the routine.

Preparing the space and including her in the process:

I turn down all the lights after dinner. I tell her that she has a few more minutes to play and I go get the bath ready. I call her into the bathroom to add her own bubbles and her toys. I also play the same song at bath time every night ("A Frog Went a Courtin").

Being Present:

Instead of rushing through the process when I am really tired, I do my best to stay conscious and enjoy it. I take deep breaths and do my best to enjoy what is happening. If I am not genuinely present, she quickly responds with resistance and doesn't want to continue with the routine.

Surprisingly to me, I have come to enjoy bedtime as a time for both of us to slow down, reconnect and finally rest. Maximizing Love and Managing stress is The Basic that has the most impact on my life, my daughter’s life, and our household. The idea that I can give our family permission to be loving and to make stress-reduction intentional is life-changing.

Over time I’ve learned there is a big difference between caring for a child and truly loving a child. It’s not just about her behaving, because it makes my life easier. It’s really about what kind of environment I need to create so that this is a loving space that she can grow in happy and healthy from the inside out.

So the Basics made you think more about having an intentional loving relationship?

Absolutely. They didn’t just help me think about it. The Basics affirmed that for me. The Basics were developed by the Achievement Gap Initiative at Harvard University and each of the five is firmly based on science. We already know in our hearts that love is the way. Maximizing love for your child and shielding them from stress is the first step to connecting with them.

Culturally a lot of people may say you will spoil your child. But my partner and I have decided to parent differently. Because of the Basics, we know it’s important to pay attention to our daughter’s emotions. We pride ourselves in creating an environment of love for the family.

It's cool that you are able to use the Basics to help you deal with life's pressures. Would you mind sharing which of the five is most challenging?

Definitely, explore through movement and play.

We play a lot at home, but sometimes I like to find places outside of my home to play. Especially now that it’s winter, I have to go out of my way to find indoor playgrounds and ways to be physically active outside of the house. The indoor malls, moms’ groups, libraries, gyms, and YMCA’s are great places for parents who want to give their children a variety of play experiences.

It takes a little bit more effort to not stay home in the cold.

I also really love organization and cleanliness (laughs). And when you have a child, you kind of have to let that go. That has been a challenge for me and also an opportunity to stretch my creativity.

Thanks for being honest about your parenting journey and welcome to the Boston Basics Team!

Watch our videos to learn more about Clara’s favorite Basic, Maximize Love, Manage Stress. This interview was conducted by Dominique, blogger behind DommiesBlessed. To learn more about Clara, visit her website.



WGBH News Story


WGBH Radio News: How One Home Visitor Teaches the Boston Basics
Research shows that babies need to feel emotionally secure. It’s important for developing mental control and self-regulation, so called “executive functioning.”
Infant educator Alex DaSilva encourages six-month-old Mackenzie to crawl and talk. 
Credit: Bianca Vasquez Toness/WGBH News
Dear Partners and Friends,

The Boston Basics team is excited to share the story on the Basics that aired on Tuesday 4/17 on WGBH Radio News. Go to 89.7 online to listen to this short piece (3:34).
Reporter Bianca Vasquez Toness recorded the Basics being used during a home visit by Alex DaSilva, home based specialist at The Dimock Center, and interviewed Basics founder Ron Ferguson* on the importance of "Maximize Love, Manage Stress,” the first of the Basics. He points out that you can’t spoil a child by holding her too much; warmth and responsiveness helps babies to feel emotionally secure and gives them the confidence to learn.
A shout-out of appreciation goes to our partners The Dimock Center and WGBH for helping to make this interview possible.   
We hope you enjoy the story. Thanks for continuing to help us spread the word about the Basics and the critical need to share these practices with parents in Boston and beyond.
*Faculty Director, Achievement Gap Initiative, at Harvard University
The Boston Basics are 5 fun, easy, and powerful ways that every family can give each child a great start in life.

March 2018 Newsletter

BostonBasics News


New Opportunities for Impact

We are very excited to announce the launch of an innovative partnership with Families First to provide training and resources to staff and families at community health centers and childcare centers in 12 Boston neighborhoods. The work is being funded by a generous three-year grant from the Boston Children’s Collaboration for Community Health, a groundbreaking initiative of Boston Children’s Hospital recently featured in The Boston Globe.

By combining forces, Boston Basics and Families First will expand upon prior and ongoing work to give parents, caregivers, and family-facing staff members the power to give children from all backgrounds a better start in life. Through careful evaluation and the creation of a guidebook for successful replication, the partnership aims to have long-lasting impacts in Boston and beyond.

This is a watershed moment for the Boston Basics as we continue to scale up our work and deepen our impact. This new project will reach thousands of families who have infants and toddlers that will benefit from the Boston Basics over the coming years.

It’s exciting, it’s exhilarating, and it’s urgent!  We are truly grateful to Boston Children’s Hospital as well as to other donors and supporters who are continuing to invest in the Boston Basics vision.

 For more information on this partnership, drop us a line at

Why Our Work Matters: American Academy of Pediatrics Now Prescribing Play

“Play is not frivolous; it is brain building.” -- American Academy of Pediatrics

Of course, the idea that play is a decidedly unfrivolous activity is not news to anyone at Boston Basics, since the fourth Basic is “Explore through Movement and Play.” Still, all of the recent attention to play in both academia and the media represents real validation!

The most extraordinary attention came in August from the American Academy of Pediatrics, which published an intriguing policy statement on the importance of play. The Academy suggested, among other things, that pediatricians should prescribe play at the end of each well-child visit during the first two years of life.

The AAP confirmed that play “provides a singular opportunity to build the executive functioning that underlies adaptive behaviors at home; improve language and math skills in school; build the safe, stable, and nurturing relationships that buffer against toxic stress; and build social–emotional resilience.” In other words, play makes children smarter, safer, healthier, and higher-achieving. 

This policy statement made headlines, including in The New York Times.

At Boston Basics, we know that doctor’s offices are some of the best places to reach families with messages about how to give children a great start in life. We’re excited to partner with health-care professionals who are dedicated to promoting play as a part of early-childhood development.

So, if you are a parent or caregiver, make time for play this fall. Smile at your baby, roll a ball to your toddler, or pretend you’re a zoo animal alongside your preschooler. Follow their lead, respond to their curiosity, help them build on their ideas. Your stress will melt away, your child will reap both short-term and long-term benefits--and you’ll be doing just what the doctor ordered.

Learn more about all five Boston Basics at


The National Basics Learning Network

There are now 30 cities, towns, and counties from 11 states where leaders have chosen to model campaigns after the Boston Basics. They have names like the Bridgeport Basics in Connecticut, the Chattanooga Basics in Tennessee, and the Palmetto Basics in Pickens and Greenville counties in South Carolina. 

As Boston burst into bloom this spring, a few civic leaders from each participating community around the United States (plus a small contingent from China) represented their local Basics campaign. They gathered at District Hall in Boston’s Seaport district for the inaugural leadership convening of the Basics Learning Network. 

I found the conference to be really energizing. It was a great balance of practical implementation information and background on the science behind the Basics.  -- Participant at the May 2018 convening

Attendees discussed the successes and challenges of promoting the Basics in their own rural, urban, or suburban communities. Their stories were as varied as their geographies, but all attested to a deeply shared commitment to make sure families from every background learn about the Basics and receive support and encouragement, from multiple sources, to apply the Basics in their child rearing.

From north to south and east to west, the Basics are changing the way communities approach early childhood. We could not be more excited by the enthusiasm and commitment we are observing around the country--and indeed, around the world, as activities are starting up in China, Brazil, and Canada. We are eager to support and learn from this growing network of localities as we collaborate on next steps. 

As we move forward, we are also excited to connect our local Boston partners with colleagues and organizations in other localities of the Basics Learning Network, as we learn together how to achieve our shared aspirations.


A Word of Thanks from Haji

Our Boston program director, Haji Shearer, is thrilled with the level of enthusiasm and cooperation he is encountering around the city. Since our last newsletter, Haji has trained 379 staffers at 16 partner organizations as he continues to lead our on-the-ground work. Whether in our current deep-dive neighborhoods of East Boston and Mattapan, or in the many organizations in other parts of the city that are integrating the Basics into their programming, people “get it”—they embrace the vision.

Haji and the rest of the Boston Basics team truly appreciate your commitment to infants and toddlers and look forward to a future where we achieve the socioecological saturation we believe is possible.

Left to right: Ron Ferguson; Gloria Devine and Justin Pasquariello, East Boston Social Centers; Haji Shearer; Magda Rodriguez, Families First


Monitoring our Progress

The Boston Basics team is launching a new system for gathering feedback from our local partners.  

In November, we will invite professionals from partner organizations to complete an online questionnaire about their experiences to date, including ways they have integrated Basics ideas and resources into their work, as well as successes and challenges.

If you are with one of our partner organizations in Boston, we hope you will take the time to respond. Please keep an eye out for the questionnaire and thanks in advance for your feedback.

The Basics team is pleased to announce an online Basics Community Toolkit. It’s full of multimedia resources for integrating the Basics into the daily work of organizations serving families of young children.

While new videos feature work with healthcare partners, the Toolkit offers materials for a variety of community settings. Over time, it will become an expanding cornucopia of resources as we learn alongside partners in Boston and around the nation, where it will also be hosted on partner-city websites.

Watch the videos below to hear the voices of pediatricians, nurses, medical assistants, and others on how Basics parenting practices enhance their work with families. The enthusiasm of these professionals reflects a movement in healthcare to embrace whole child development and tackle social determinants of health.
Don’t miss the library book lists for each of the five Basics. For example, My Heart Fills with Happiness, by Monique Gray Smith, helps create cozy reads with little ones. (Basics #1: Maximize Love, Manage Stress.) You’ll find stories encouraging pointing, singing, counting, moving, and wondering, told with love and humor.

We continue to deepen our engagement with partners in Boston’s diverse neighborhoods and communities. Read the highlights that follow about our collaboration with East Boston Social Centers, Families First, the Mayor’s Office, and WGBH, as well as results from the fall campaign, It Takes a Community
Toolkit: Special Thanks

The Basics would like to extend a heartfelt thanks to our partners in the healthcare sector, including Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston Children’s Hospital, Boston Medical Center, the Boston Public Health Commission, The Dimock Center, and Partners HealthCare. Without their generous sharing of staff time and energy—in the form of video interviews, hospital access, and pragmatic tips—the new Toolkit videos would not have been possible.

A special shout out goes to the Boston Public Library for creating the hand-picked Basics booklists. Gems for librarians and caregivers alike, Basics inspired choices can be checked out online.

Finally, special thanks to Jocelyn Friedlander at the Achievement Gap Initiative at Harvard, for leading the project to develop the Toolkit and playing such a pivotal role on so much that we do.


Basics Toolkit Feature: Voices from the Healthcare Community
People want to feel like you care about all of their kid, not just the ear infection, not just the vaccine they’re getting that day. They want to feel like you think about their general happiness, development, and learning too.

–-Samantha Baras, M.D., Pediatrician, The Dimock Center
This first version of the Toolkit highlights healthcare settings from hospital and health center waiting rooms, to post-partum units and pediatrics exam rooms. We encourage everyone to visit to explore new videos, activity guides, and outreach materials, which are available at no cost to everyone. If you are in another participating city, these same resources may soon be hosted though your local Basics website as well.
Why Are Healthcare Professionals Using the Basics?

Eighty percent of brain growth happens between the ages of zero to three. Whenever I tell that to people, it’s the same thing, astonishment.
– Lori Caiby, Public Health Advocate, Healthy Baby/Healthy Child, Boston Public Health Commission
Hear from healthcare professionals about why they share the Basics with families.
Everyone Can Be Involved
Wouldn’t it be a great thing if we started every medical encounter by saying how beautiful your child is? Instead of ‘Where’s your insurance card?’ It would set everything on a different trajectory.
 – Marilyn Augustyn, M.D., Developmental Behavioral Pediatrician, Boston Medical Center
Get ideas for rolling out the Basics in medical settings during typical visits.
What Does It Look Like When Healthcare Professionals Use the Basics?

The Basics have allowed me to think through simple, straightforward messaging that I’m confident parents can deliver on, and that I can talk about it pretty quickly.
–Kathleen Conroy, M.D., Pediatrician, Associate Director of Primary Care, Boston Children’s Hospital
See healthcare professionals share the Basics in caregiver conversations.


Roundup: Partner Snapshots

Haji Shearer, Program Director and partner Lisa Melara, a parent leader at East Boston Social Centers, at EBSC’s Winter Fest 2018. Families joined in the festivities, including crafts for kids, music, and a dance performance. We shared Basics materials and space with museums, afterschool programs, and more.

We are excited that Families First has embedded the Basics into their new Power of Parenting curriculum. The 16-week program teaches parenting strategies that promote secure and nurturing parent-child relationships. The curriculum is part of their education programs in Boston neighborhoods.

For the It Takes a Community campaign, 140 billboards were visible on Commonwealth highways, November 13 to December 31. The Boston Mayor’s Office and the Massachusetts Department of Transportation helped us to spread the critical message of early learning via millions of brand impressions.

Families have been snuggling up this winter for a great read and nurturing babies' and toddlers' imaginations. Thanks to generous support from the
Krueger Charitable Foundation and our partner WGBH, we shared close to 800 book bags with partners citywide. Each bag contained five books aligned with the Basics.

What none of us can do alone, all of us can do together!

If you would like more information, are interested in helping to support our work, or have ideas about others who might be, please drop us a line at

The Boston Basics are 5 fun, easy, and powerful ways that every family can give each child a great start in life.




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