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DOUBLE TAP TO ZOOM WITH PHONE OR TABLET Introduction Starting with Character came into being when we were challenged to plan a char- acter education program for children ages six weeks to five years. Reviewing the existing literature and resources on character education, we found very little targeting young children. Many materials designed for middle childhood and adolescence were available, but these clearly did not meet the unique and specific needs of young children. Since we know that early childhood is a critical time for learning, the lack of resources was disappointing. When we could not find a character education program for young children, we decided to create one. Have you ever played a game of give and take with an infant? It is a won- derful experience! A baby holding a toy reaches out to hand it to you, offering it with intensity. You take the toy and say, “Thank you!” Then, after a moment of admiring the toy, you offer it back. The baby is thrilled to receive the toy and smiles! Sometimes children will repeat this activity several times. This experi- ence demonstrates the readiness of very young children to express generosity and gratitude, positive character traits. The potential of developing character begins early; therefore, parents, caregivers, and teachers need resources to use with children starting at birth. Research supports that the first five years represent the most critical time for brain development in children. Environmental factors contribute signifi- cantly to brain development during that time (Shore 1997). Stimulating, rich, and developmentally appropriate environments can have powerful and positive impacts, especially for at-​r isk children. Children’s environments in the early years include their homes, the homes of friends and relatives, and their child care settings. For many, as much as 50 percent of each day is spent in child care. With this understanding, we made an effort to develop character education ac- tivities that could be integrated into high-​quality early childhood environments for young children. We all want the best for our children. We want them to grow up and be able to get along with others and to be successful in school and in their careers. We ask ourselves what success looks like. It’s clear that success is more than simply learning reading, writing, and arithmetic. Success encompasses all aspects of development—​mental, emotional, physical, and social. In addition, success relates to the character of a person. Therefore, integrating a focus on character develop- ment in early education makes sense. All children should have the opportunity to be successful, to be prepared for school, and to develop positive character traits. 1 COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL