On a beautiful fall day, Paula Suchy laid out two piles of leaves
for young children to burrow in with their mothers and grandmother. While the children saw it as a fun activity and the family members enjoyed seeing the children have a good time, it was part of a larger lesson Suchy, a naturalist for Three Rivers Park District, was teaching children through the “Nuts About Nature” Early Childhood Family Education (ECFE) programs.
ECFE programs are available for children from birth to five years of age. Knowing that parents provide children their first and best learning environment, ECFE classes help parents understand the importance of healthy growth and learning for their children. ECFE classes also give students a jumpstart on their learning. ECFE is unique in that teachers engage parents in their child’s learning, as was evident as the mothers and grandmother played with the children in the leaves.
Anoka-Hennepin provides a number of high-quality ECFE classes at various locations. Suchy taught her eight-week class at Riverview Early Childhood Center (RECC). A former elementary school, RECC now houses both ECFE and early childhood special education programs.
After Suchy spent time talking with the children about fall and animals’ activities during the season, the children went to a classroom for further activities and the mothers and grandmother joined Tracy Audette, an ECFE parent educator, for a discussion about child development. Audette told the group that having general knowledge of child development stages is beneficial knowledge to have in a parenting tool kit.
On this day, the group discussed “The Flow of Ages and Stages” and “Developmental Stages.” The flow chart described the behaviors of a child with equilibrium, such as comfortable and content, and disequilibrium, such as demanding and bossy. The Development Stages laid out the developmental goals, characteristic behaviors and parent’s job/role for infants to children who are five years old.
The parents discussed milestones and expectations for children. Audette spoke about physical, cognitive, social, and language development. A child might be motor driven and learn from physical experiences, such as the Nuts about Nature class. Another example Audette gave was a child who has a drive for independence, but not the other skills to go along with this. For example, the child might want to zip his or her own coat but not have the fine motor skills to do this.
“There are different domains of development that are working together,” Audette said.
Audette lead parents through a discussion of dealing with the difficult stages of a child’s development.
“Realistic expectations will help you; patience is your best friend,” Audette said. “No stage lasts forever. And remember to take care of yourself so you will have the energy when you need it.”
The parents in the class all said they like their ECFE experiences. They enjoy bouncing ideas off each other, sharing ideas and to see what other parents are doing.
“It’s also good for social skills,” said Isattu Kamara. “You get to meet new people in a new environment. And what I learn in the classes will help me know what a good foundation is for my children.”
For more information about ECFE classes, call 763-506-1260.