By Sarah Shields / MSU School of Human Sciences
The Meridian Star
MISSISSIPPI STATE – To raise awareness that childhood is more than just a time for play, the Mississippi Child Care Resource and Referral Network encourages local communities to celebrate the Week of the Young Child.
“What seems like just playing to most adults is children working and learning,” said Ellen Goodman, project manager of the Mississippi Child Care Resource and Referral Network, a program of Mississippi State University Extension Service. “Play is children’s work.”
The Week of the Young Child recognizes that childhood activities are life skills in development. Studies show that the early years remain the most critical time for physical, mental, social and intellectual development. Children’s experiences influence how they approach the world and who they become. Simple activities are precursors to reading, math and even conflict resolution.
“In early childhood classrooms, you will see children counting objects, putting puzzles together, building with blocks and play dough to develop vital fine motor skills, reading a book with a teacher, or playing together in the dramatic play area and learning how to get along,” Goodman said. “Young children learn best with hands-on active play.”
Celebrated April 14-20, this year’s Week of the Young Child has the theme “Early Years Are Learning Years.” The week also focuses on embracing diversity and strengthening families. Sponsored by the National Association for the Education of Young Children, the week directs the public’s attention to the needs of young children, their families, and early care and education providers.
“Child care providers work very hard every day. It is nice to show appreciation and let them know we realize the important role they play,” Goodman said.
By building public support for high-quality, early childhood education programs, communities can positively impact children during a critical time in their development.
The Week of the Young Child began in 1971 to improve children’s success in school and later life. More than 40 years later, celebration of the week continues with festivals, free museum visits, banquets for providers and crafts for children.
Goodman explained that there are no prescribed requirements for participation. Communities can plan their own events and activities such as fairs, parades and teacher appreciation days to match their interest and involvement. Providers can host open houses and tours for families and local public officials.
“Bring in the superintendent or the mayor to experience what a day is like in child care centers,” Goodman said.\
With the goal to get everyone thinking about early childhood care and education on the community level, celebration options include asking mayors to issue proclamations for the week, inviting families to participate in story time and other classroom activities, or holding Week of the Young Child celebration picnics.
The Mississippi Child Care Resource and Referral Network can help those looking to organize an event, officials said. The Network offers resources for free checkout including books, toys, and educational materials. With 15 locations across the state, these resource sites provide information for developing activities for children, families, providers and communities.
The Week of the Young Child also provides a time to recognize early care and education professionals. The week helps communities build awareness to improve professional practice and working conditions in early childhood education.
“Children are like little sponges who soak up everything, so it is important that child care providers who are with children so much get professional development and stay educated on the latest trends so that they can help nurture and care for the children,” said Adrienne Mercer, Child Care Resource and Referral Network field technical assistance professional development supervisor.
For more information about the Week of the Young Child and childhood development, visit www.naeyc.org/woyc or contact the Mississippi Child Care Resource and Referral Network at 1-800-706-8827. Funded by the Mississippi Department of Human Services, Division of Early Childhood Care and Development, the network is a program of the MSU Extension Service.