'Building the Family Foundation'

Thursday, March 29, 2012
Brysen Cerny has some fun -- all the while learning about colors, shapes, gravity and more during a Nevada R-5 Parents As Teachers/preschool "Building the Family Foundation Block Party" Tuesday evening.

They giggled. They played. They built towers and knocked them down. They listened to a story and to guest speaker Miss Missouri 2011 Sydney Friar's presentation on reconnecting the family unit.

All the while, children and parents at Tuesday's R-5 Parents as Teachers and preschool "Building the Family Foundation Block Party" were making connections of their own.

Spending time together -- whether it's at the family dinner table, before bed, or a myriad of other activities families in which families can talk and bond -- is how family connections are fostered, Friar said.

Nevada R-5 Title I preschool teacher Sara Parrack helps Ian Ponzini learn from play.

Families spend much of the play session interacting in many ways, and through those interactions, they were doing much more than just playing, just talking, just spending time together.

Informational materials provided by the PAT staff noted that children learn many things from block play.

PAT staff member Crystal Burch said that, by the time one reaches adulthood, "No one has to tell you not to put the smallest box on the bottom. You learn that from play, when you are small. They learn about colors and shapes and sizes," she said. Children also begin to learn about physics, about gravity, and, "it helps with their handwriting, all their tool usage," as children develop, Burch said.

Children learn social skills through play such as block play, as well as how to be creative or how to add to a structure, for example, informational materials said.

Block building stimulates imagination, and encourages working in a group when they build something together.

"Visual discrimination" -- the ability to discern subtle differences in shapes or structures they build -- developed by block play even improves reading readiness. Talking about what they're building reinforces language skills, and playing with blocks helps with motor skills.

Austin Reedy gets an autographed photo from Miss Missouri 2011, Sydney Friar of El Dorado Springs.

"You can even make your own blocks," Burch said. Old cereal boxes, for example, could be taped shut for an instant set of big blocks, and it won't matter if these get damaged; they can be easily replaced when the next cereal box is empty.

Tuesday's event was just one of the activities the R-5 PAT hosts; there are three family activities like the block party each school year, and hosts monthly playgroups between the families involved.

Parents As Teachers is a "free developmental program that supports parents as they raise children from ages prenatal to kindergarten," Burch said.

This time in childrens' lives is important. Burch noted, "80 percent of development goes on in the first three years of life."

The program focuses on facets of child development like communication and language skills, motor skills, personal and social skills and cognitive skills and encourage activities that support these skills.

Tonya Kenard helps daughter Talitha with the blocks.

"We also provide developmental screenings to all patrons of the school district regardless of enrollment in Parents as Teachers," Burch said.

The group serves as a connecting resource as well, serving as a bridge for special services in the home and much more.

There's also a lending library with parent materials, books, magazines, videos and toys.

Parents As Teachers began in Missouri 28 years ago, and has now spread internationally and is an international model for the implementation of home visitation programs, Burch said.

She credits the Nevada R-5 program's success to the notion that the school board "really understands the importance of early childhood" education.

For more information about the Nevada R-5 Parents as Teachers program, call (417) 448-2061.

For information about other PAT programs, visit www.parentsasteachers.org; click on "Resources" then "Locations." From there site visitors can search by state and city. Clicking on the city of choice brings up contact information for that group. Bronaugh, Schell City (Northeast Vernon County) El Dorado Springs and Rich Hill, for example, are all listed on the site.

For more about Miss Missouri's message on reconnecting the family unit, look for a story in the next issue of SHE magazine.

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