by Lisa Thompson, MO-AEYC Public Policy Chair
As Public Policy Chair for the Missouri Association for the Education of Young Children (MOAEYC), I would like to share some information about our organization and an annual April event. MOAEYC is one of 51 affiliates through which nearly 60,000 people are members of the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). Missouri counts for about 600 of those members. NAEYC is dedicated to promoting high-quality early learning for all children from birth through age 8. In order to achieve this goal, NAEYC sets standards for professionals, maintains an accreditation system for early childhood programs, educates the public about the importance of early learning, and advocates for public policy that supports children, families, and early childhood programs and professionals.
Since 1971 the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) has celebrated the Week of the Young Child (WOYC) in April. Each year child care centers and communities organize special events. Mayors and governors issue proclamations.The purpose of WOYC is to remind all of us that young children are our future, to focus attention on the value of early childhood experiences (both at home and in educational programs), and to highlight the importance of young children, and their caregivers, both at home and in professional settings.
This year, WOYC is April 11 through 17. Due to the Covid 19 pandemic, public celebrations won’t happen, but messages will still be shared through social media, and those who are at home with children can find daily activities and information on learning through NAEYC’s online resources (https://www.naeyc.org/events/woyc/plan-your-event). Early childhood programs can share this resource with parents to encourage home learning while quarantined. Resources are included for both professionals and families and are listed based on daily themes.
- Music Monday–Activities for this day promote singing, dancing, and listening to music. These types of activities are often favorites for young children because they allow children to move, be free, and use their abundant energy. Adults can gain insight into how children doing these activities are also developing language and literacy skills, muscle control, strength, and balance.
- Tasty Tuesday–Adults and children are encouraged to cook together using math skills, developing literacy, reinforcing science concepts, and promoting nutrition and health.
- Work Together Wednesday–When children work together (with peers, siblings, or caregivers) to build and make their own creations–whether it’s with blocks or recyclables found around the house–they are discovering concepts related to math, science, and literacy, while also building social skills. How many families have built blanket forts in the last few weeks?
- Artsy Thursday–Given some simple art supplies, some suggestions on technique, and maybe some inspiration from looking at picture books or museum collections, children can create and represent their own view of the world. Obviously, this encourages creativity, but people may not realize that during the process of creating, children are practicing fine motor skills, making choices, and using their imagination.
- Family Friday–For many families right now, every day is Family Day. For some it may feel overwhelming to be a parent AND a teacher (and maybe an employee) all at the same time , but NAEYC acknowledges the role that home plays as an essential learning environment for young children. Resources on the website for this day include some ideas for spending time outdoors.
I hope that you will visit the WOYC Resource page for ideas on how to participate and share the link or the information with others you know. Post about what you do on social media with the hashtag #WOYC20.
Children represent every opportunity for the future. With opportunity comes the challenge of responsibility. I’m not the first to write about this. There are many famous people who can be quoted. For example, Winston Churchill said “With opportunity comes responsibility.” Abraham Lincoln said “ You cannot escape the opportunity of tomorrow by evading it today.” If children are the opportunity, adults must take responsibility to create a world where children can grow and learn and confidently reach their full potential. Marian Wright Edelman, the extraordinary child advocate and founder of the Children’s Defense Fund, said “When I fight about what is going on in the neighborhood, or when I fight about what is happening to other people’s children, I’m doing that because I want to leave a community and a world that is better than the one I found.” It’s our responsibility to advocate for children.
As we celebrate young children during the Week of the Young Child, I challenge you (as I do myself), to work to create a world in which each and every child’s needs are met–emotionally, physically, and intellectually. Find your place in the world of child advocacy–follow Kids Win Missouri, join MOAEYC/NAEYC, contribute financially to local and national organizations that work for children, be sure the families in your classrooms and programs are counted in the 2020 Census, and hold elected officials responsible for creating systems that benefit children–not just during the Week of the Young Child, but every day, in every election and legislative session, in every community.