By Christina Whiting
“When we think about children’s education, we tend to think about ABC’s and math, but early learning is all about kids experiencing things like parents talking to them, reading to them and playing with them,” said Jen Martin, Best Beginnings Homer Coordinator. “All of this helps with their hand-eye coordination, language development and brain development.”
April 20 to 27 is Week of the Young Child, a national celebration that promotes opportunities that are available for early childhood education.
In Homer, Week of the Young Child is being coordinated by Best Beginnings Homer , a group of individuals and non-profit agencies who support early childhood education in Homer and the outlying areas. BBH is working with local organizations to offer a week of events that are open to the public, free or low cost and targeted to parents and children up to the age of five.
Sprout Family Services promotes the healthy development of children and families through an infant learning program, parents as teachers program, weekly playgroups, a toy and book lending library, as well as physical, occupational and speech therapy services and the Imagination Library.
The Imagination Library offers monthly story times and a free book-giving program. Children up to five years of age can receive a book a month until the age of five. There are nearly 300 children on the Southern Kenai Peninsula currently signed up for this program.
During the Week of the Young Child, Sprout will offer a Block Fest, Sprout Olympics, Story Tracks, Imagination Library Story hour and a Little Boppers class, a fun learning environment of singing, dancing, yoga, movement activities and arts and crafts. Little Bopper classes are currently available Sunday mornings at the Off the Wall Studio behind Kachemak Foods.
For the past 10 years, the Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies (CACS) has been providing services and activities, programs and places where children can experience the outdoors, including a pre-school story hour and a knee-high naturalist program.
These programs provide families with the opportunity to learn about the natural world in a hands-on way and to support the need for tactile and sensory learning at a young age. This summer, CACS will offer a Knee-high Naturalist program at the Carl Wynn Nature Center and a Little S.P.I.T.S. pre-school story hour at their Yurt on the Spit. They are also creating a natural play space at the entrance to the Wynn.
During Week of the Young Child, CACS will host Story Tracks at the Carl Wynn Nature Center where kids will read, find animal tracks, play outdoors and warm up around the bonfire.
“We hope to facilitate an appreciation for the beauty and mystery of the natural world and to provide opportunities for kids to experience the joy of closeness to nature and respect for other creatures,” Trowbridge said.
The Homer Public Library provides pre-school story time on Tuesday and Wednesday mornings from September through May and toddler story time on Thursday mornings all year round.
The Homer Public Library will host both a pre-school and a small fry toddler story time during Week of the Young Child.
“When kids develop a love of reading, whether its paper books, audio books or electronic books, they are more likely to be strong readers,” said Claudia Haines, the Youth Services Librarian at the Homer Public Library. “Strong readers are more likely to succeed in school and throughout their lives.”
Homer Head Start supports early education through their Center and home-based programs for 3 to 5 year old kids.
“We provide children with the opportunity to foster their social, emotional, physical, cognitive, language and math development through a creative curriculum,” said teacher Hanna Young. “We prepare children not only for kindergarten, but for a life time love of learning.”
Visit Homer Head Start during their Open House on April 24.
Other activities during Week of the Young Child include crafting at Timeless Toys, a Safe Kids Fair hosted by South Peninsula Hospital and Haven House, a toddler playgroup with Community Recreation, a kids summer programs fair with Paul Banks PTA and Homer Council on the Arts encourages everyone to celebrate their youth performance show Jubilee.
BBH is also providing a Professionals Community Café.
“The café is appropriate for childcare providers, foster care parents, professionals, parents, caregivers, and community members who work with and support young children and their families,” said Martin.
Participants will learn how communities can work to provide support and services to young children and their families who experience trauma, about sensory integration with young children and BBH’s progress and plans for the upcoming year. Participants must RSVP to attend the Professional Community café by calling BBH at 435-7101.
Locally, BBH helped to create the Sprout Imagination Library and successfully advocated for a full time Children’s Librarian at the Homer Public Library. They are improving the Bayview Park, supporting the creation of a local trail map that will include kid friendly information, helping businesses become more family friendly, supporting Sprout’s Parents as Teachers home visiting program and providing parenting education and classes in Homer and outlying communities. They are also raising public awareness about the importance of early childhood education through legislative updates, community cafes and events like Week of the Young Child.
For more information about Best Beginnings Homer and the Week of the Young Child schedule, visit their Facebook page or their websites bestbeginningsalaska.org and www.pop411.org or call the BBH office at 435-7101.
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