April is the Month of the Young Child and the perfect time to share what our local early childhood council has been up to over the past 12 months.
We know that what happens to children in the first years of life affects their ability to learn and be successful in school and later in life. With this in mind, the Montelores Early Childhood Council has been working on a variety of initiatives with the ultimate goal of ensuring there is an effective early childhood system in Montezuma and Dolores counties.
Ensuring that children’s needs are met in today’s world can be challenging. Organizations representing the four areas of early learning, health, social/emotional and mental health, and parent support and education come together to collaborate to find ways to make the overall system work better for children and their families. Together, we hope to create optimal developmental outcomes by making sure that the available programs and services in all four areas connect and support one another. We know that the problem is not always that services and programs do not exist; it may be that people do not know about them, they have trouble accessing them or the services that exist do not meet their needs.
MECC has been able to secure additional funding this year that has enabled us to expand and sustain our work. We are looking at the whole child as we work on our “Healthy Kids Are Ready Kids” campaign. We are working with teachers to increase quality and school readiness through providing coaching. We are partnering with schools to create a process for children transitioning to kindergarten. We also provide professional development opportunities for providers. Our focus on social/emotional development and mental health includes the Pyramid Model Partnership that provides training and support for teachers as well as having an early childhood mental health consultant who works in classrooms to assist with challenging behaviors and providing other supports.
We continue to focus on oral health through the Cavity Free at Three program. We are also concentrating on healthy living through the 5-2-1-0 message (5 fruits and vegetables daily, 2 hours or less screen time, 1 hour physical activity, and 0 sugary drinks). We are working to produce a navigation guide to help families in accessing services, knowing what to expect developmentally, what to ask doctors, and more.
We provide monthly family nights that are filled with fun and learning. We are also in our fourth cohort of the 20-week Family Leadership Training Institute.
We are a part of the It’s About Kids network with the Colorado Children’s Campaign and are providing an advocacy training on April 8 and will bring two more in June – one tailored to youth and one tailored to families.
We have an email newsletter, listserv and Facebook page to share insights and happenings.
During April, we have some special activities happening to help celebrate young children. We will have a children’s art show at Wal-Mart, beginning on April 15.
Saturday, April 27, is our fourth annual Early Childhood Fair at the County Annex. It is a free event that provides a variety of free screenings and fun activities. New this year will be an Ask the Doctor and Teddy Bear Clinic — a doctor will be available to answer questions and do “well child check-ups” on the toys that children bring.
We will have an Early Childhood Professional’s Appreciation event, which is an opportunity to celebrate all the hard work that those working in the field of early childhood do. At this event we name a teacher of the year — “Master Gardener” — and honor a community member that goes above and beyond for young children and families in our communities. We need your input for these awards. Please consider nominating those who make a difference for your children! You can email nominations to firstname.lastname@example.org and also for more information about any of the things in this article.
Take an extra moment this month to let those who work with young children know how much you appreciate their dedication and hard work.
Vangi McCoy is the Coordinator for the Montelores Early Childhood Council and says she is blessed to get to work with the awesome early childhood community in the two-county area.