Archive for Thursday, September 14, 2006

Parents as Teachers boosts district’s families

September 14, 2006

The first three years are the most crucial in a child's development, and a program in the Basehor-Linwood district is helping parents monitor and enhance those early years.

The Parents As Teachers (PAT) program is an international program that gives parents or guardians tips on how to properly foster early development through home visits, playgroups and age appropriate materials. The program is covers prenatal to children under age 3.

The state- and school district-funded program has been available to families in Basehor at no charge for 17 years.

Parent educators set up home visits with parent-participants every six to eight weeks. During the home visit, parent educators bring age-appropriate developmental activities for the children and share research-based handouts with parents on such topics as self-regulation and communication. Health, vision, hearing and dental checks are also provided. Coodinator and parent educator Jacki Himpel said home visits provide support for the parents as well.

"We provide developmental screenings not just to show parents what children can't do but what they can," she said. "It's also to give parents a pat on the back."

Last Wednesday morning, parents, grandparents and children met for the first playgroup of the school year at Basehor Elementary School. Playgroups are held twice a month -- one for Basehor residents and another for Linwood residents at Linwood Elementary. Himpel said each month the playgroup is centered on the theme of a book and each family gets to take home a copy of the book.

This month, the theme was "little and big," and children enjoyed activities such as blowing small and large bubbles, coloring sheets with adult and baby animals and marking their height on the wall with the help of adults. Himpel said playgroups allow social interaction for children and parents.

"It gives kids a chance for socialization and parents to meet other parents with kids their age before school starts," she said.

During the introduction, Himpel encouraged parents to interact with their children during the activities such as having them identify which was the small object and which was the big object.

Michelle Kuebelbeck spent time with her son, Aaron, and niece, Emma Pembleton, both 2, tracing all three of their hands on paper and having the children identify which hand was big and which was little during the playgroup. Kuebelbeck has been with the program since Aaron was born.

"It is just to reassure me, to know that I'm doing things right," Kuebelbeck said about the program. "It's nice having some different ideas."

Susie Irwin brought her two 18-month-old twin daughters, Ally and Emma, to a playgroup for the first time last week. The two enjoyed crawling over curved playmats and blowing bubbles.

"I wanted to get them among other children," Irwin said. "They haven't really been around other children, other than each other. It's good because they don't really have any programs for kids this little and it's free of charge."

Himpel said that while participation in the program is not necessary to attend the playgroups, she encourages parents to join the growing program.

"Studies show that the more involved a parent is, the better kids do in school," Himpel said. "If you start early, it helps to foster that."

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