Working parents with young children have numerous daily tasks to complete. Not only do they have to worry about putting in 40-hour weeks to keep food in the fridge, they come home, complete household chores and take care of the kids on top of it all.
But what happens to the children while mom and dad are working?
That's what organizers of the Month of the Young Child would like parents to keep in mind this month, along with how they're stimulating the minds of their offspring at home.
Elizabeth Starks, executive director of Chautauqua Lake Child Care Center in Mayville, works with children in the toddler room. In conjunction with the Chautauqua County Association of the Education of Young Children, CLCCC has encouraged Mayville and the rest of the county to participate in the Month of the Young Child.
P-J photos by Scott Shelters
Gabby Testa works on a project with her teacher, Miss Jeanne, in the CLCCC 4-year-old classroom.
Youth-created artwork will be displayed throughout the county during April for the Month of the Young Child. The pictured artwork is on display inside Chautauqua Lake Central School.
According to Chautauqua Lake Child Care Center, more than 7,000 Chautauqua County children have a single parent or both parents in the workforce. Those parents must decide where to send their kids while they're on the clock.
SPENDING TIME TOGETHER
Some choose to send children to CLCCC, which in conjunction with the Chautauqua County Association of the Education of Young Children has encouraged Mayville and the rest of the county to participate in the Month of the Young Child.
Nationally, Americans will celebrate the Week of the Young Child from April 22-28. Locally, a committee led by Virginia Miller and CCAEYC decided to make this a month-long event to celebrate children and those who make differences in their lives.
"We found that we couldn't fit everything into just a week," said Miller, noting the county has participated in the month for several years. "I felt we needed to go bigger."
CLCCC organized a month-long events calendar with activity ideas for parents and their children, while area communities will host readings and artwork displays to raise awareness on the importance of providing young children quality care and education.
Citing brain-development research, Elizabeth Starks, executive director of CLCCC, described what children learn in their first few years as "the foundation of everything they're going to learn."
"It's really important that children are given opportunities to read and to be read to, to sing songs, to explore different sensory materials, to play with all types of materials, and to talk about the experiences that they're having," she said. "To spend time outside is important, and to be doing that in a meaningful way."
Through the calendar, CLCCC has encouraged the parents who utilize its services in Mayville to up their interactions with their children. Activities include CLCCC family fun nights, guest readers, family exercise, uninterrupted play, a board-game night and several others. The public is welcome to attend the family fun nights, which will take place at the Mayville CLCCC site Tuesday, April 24 and the Falconer CLCCC site Thursday, April 26.
"We give (parents) ideas of things to do with their children, just thinking about the importance of interacting with their children every day," Starks said. "A lot of times, the parents are at work during the mornings and afternoons. It's nice for them to be able to experience what their children do every day."
CLCCC plans to celebrate children and their families throughout the month, providing parents breakfast as they drop off their children or giving them flowers when they return at the end of their work days. Staff and board members will also receive special treatment throughout the month. On Tuesday, April 24, children will thank their teachers for all they do.
According to CLCCC figures, every $1 invested in "quality" early childhood education saves New York state $7 over time in school remediation, health care, welfare, unemployment and incarceration. Studies show children enrolled in early childhood education programs do better in school, need less help and are able to read at a higher level by second grade, according to Starks. They're more likely to graduate high school, go on to college and earn more money as adults.While Month of the Young Child supporters hope to focus public attention on the needs of young children, those kids need high-quality care year-round, according to Starks.
Teachers at CLCCC focus on social, emotional and cognitive development, working with themes children enjoy.
"If children are interested in what they're doing, it's meaningful to them, and they learn more," Starks said, noting children learn best through play. "They're offered a lot of opportunities - indoor and outdoor - that our teachers set up in a way that children can explore and learn through hands-on exploration and have a lot of fun while doing it. Probably, if you walked into any of our classrooms, it would look like they were playing, and that's exactly what they're doing, but they're learning a lot through their play."
CLCCC offers toddler, preschool and after-school programs, providing services for children 1-12 years of age. The center is open from 7 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Friday.
"It is important that parents have a choice of a place that provides a higher quality of care," Starks said. "That's the reason that I opened this center to begin with. I never wanted anyone to feel they had to take their child somewhere they didn't want to because that's their only choice. There's quality programs in different locations with different philosophies, but it's important that families have a choice, that they can choose and that they know what quality is."
SEVERAL EVENTS SCHEDULED
The Do It Yourself Depot, which will provide environmentally friendly activities for children and their families, will take place from 10 a.m.-noon Saturday, April 14, at Lake Shore Family Center in Irving. That same day, Hazeltine Public Library will host Katie Finch for a guest reading at 11 a.m.
The Prendergast Library will feature readings from Camille Guinane and Carol Phillips at 10:30 a.m. April 17-18 that will be open to the public in cooperation with CCAEYC. Some preschool classes will participate in the event.
Valle Blair, children's librarian, spoke on the importance of reading to young children every day.
"It prepares the child for being ready for school," she said. "It prepares their minds to read on their own."
Marty's Bubblegum Machine, a fun-inspired music event encouraging audience participation, will be held at Connections North on Tuesday, April 17, and at Connections South on Thursday, April 26. Both concerts will take place from 6-7 p.m. and are free and open to the public.
Falconer Public Library will host guest reader Gerald Stimson for two readings Wednesday, April 18. The 3-year-old reading will begin at 9 a.m., and the 4-year-old reading will begin at 10:30.
Sheriff Joseph Gerace will serve as the guest reader at Mary E. Seymour Memorial Free Library in Stockton at 4:30 p.m. Thursday, April 19. Ella Ames will guest read at the Mayville Library on Thursday, April 26 at 4:30 p.m.
Additional story hours will be held at Ahira-Hall Library in Brocton on Monday, April 16 at 6:30 p.m., at Dunkirk Free Library on Tuesday, April 17 at 10:30 a.m., at Anderson-Lee Library in Silver Creek on Thursday, April 19 at 3 p.m. and at Darwin-Barker Library in Fredonia on Fridays at 3 p.m.
CCAEYC will sponsor a business-decorating event, and Lake Shore Savings and Loan will host a county-wide art show. Businesses will decorate specified areas in honor of the month, while Lake Shore Savings and Loan will feature artwork and photography from the county's early childhood programs.
Questions regarding the Month of the Young Child can be directed to Virginia Miller at Lake Shore Family Center by calling 934-2353. Miller hopes this April will be the best Month of the Young Child yet.
"Each year, I try to add at least one new workshop or event," she said. "The quality has increased every year. We are the voice for children because they cannot advocate for themselves."