Forty one years ago, the National Association for the Education of Young Children Association made the decision to set aside one week each year, Week of the Young Child (WOYC) to focus on the needs of young children and their families. The intention was to educate communities on the importance of those early years. It also gives us a chance to recognize our early childhood programs and services that meet those needs. WOYC 2012 is April 22 28. The national theme is The Early Years Are Learning Years. Quality early childhood education is important, and this is a great time for us to spread the message and celebrate all the great things we have done throughout the year. We need to share that more than 14 million children are in non-parental care in the United States, and research shows more than 80 percent of all brain development takes place before the age of five. Do our programs, directors, and teachers know how important and valued their roles play in a child's life? Do parents and members of the community realize the importance of the first 2,000 days of a child's life? Here in Marshalltown we will be observing this week. Mayor Gene Beach will proclaim it Week of the Young Child on Monday at 10 a.m. at Bright Beginnings Child Care Center; young children's artwork from various centers and programs will be displayed at many businesses in Marshall County drawing attention to the importance of those early years AND the importance of early literacy for a child's future success; providers will be recognized for the important role they play; and a provider appreciation dinner will take place May 3 to honor all those who care and teach our young children.
Parents, caregivers, and members of the community; do you realize the importance of the first 2,000 days of a child's life? This is the time when many connections in the brain are occurring; these connections are made from all the experiences children encounter in their first five years. We as caregivers and a community need to be aware of the importance of having quality care and education for these little ones. By doing so, we are giving them the tools they will need to be successful later in life. Here are a few things to look for when searching for care for your children:
- Your caregiver provides a safe, loving and nurturing environment.
- They provide age appropriate learning experiences/activities that nurture their imaginations, creativity, encourage fine and large motor development, social/emotional and cognitive skills.
- An open door policy, a parent should be able to visit the center at anytime, but should also be considerate during times such as nap time.
- Education level/experience of your caregiver.
- Are they providing healthy,nourishing meals and snacks?
- Ask if they are implementing an evidence-based curriculum.
- Check to see if all employees are up-to-date on their trainings; such as CPR, First-Aid, mandatory reporting, etc.
This list of course does not include all the things you should look for, and not all providers will have all the qualifications listed, but it is a start when looking for quality care. Visit the center a few times with your child before they start attending, and try to stay longer than just a few minutes. Watch the interactions between the caregivers and the children, their tone of voice with them, if there are schedules and routines (and if they are posted), and if books/activities/toys are readily available for the children. Is there a safe outdoor play area; play is very important for a young child's development and adequate time should be allowed for a child to get involved in a play activity. And, is the caregiver sensitive to YOUR needs and what is expected of them from YOU as a parent.
For those of you who have found that remarkable person that cares and loves your child while you are away, take time to show your appreciation and gratitude. Here are a few ideas of what you can do for your caregiver during this week:
- Have your child make them a "thank you" card, allow them to be creative. Have items such as crayons, markers, glitter (with adult supervision), stickers, etc. for them to use.
- A small gift card such as for a cup of coffee, or a subway sandwich is always appreciated.
- A basket full of school supplies, this way they don't have to purchase them out of their budget.
- A basket of homemade muffins, candy, or cookies. Or ones from the local bakery or Hy-Vee are always welcome too
- If they are a coffee or tea drinker, assorted teas and coffees with a special personalized mug.
- A colorful tote bag.
- Soothing bath salts after a long day at work.
- A nice, colorful scarf.
These are just a few, and many caregivers truly appreciate a heartfelt "thank you" the most. Just let them know how much you appreciate all they do for your children and YOU. Remember, next to you, they are the person your child loves and trusts the most.
Sue Junge is an Early Childhood Specialist for the Marshall County Early Childhood Iowa Area and is a Thursday columnist for the Times-Republican. The views expressed in this column are personal views of the writer and don't necessarily reflect the views of the T-R. For more information, please visit www.marshallempowerment.com.