Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community parents gathered for the Guiding Our Young Children in a Positive Way Parent Conference on March 19 at Salt River High School. The conference was open to all parents, grandparents, family members and employees of the Community; child care was provided for those with children. The conference was sponsored by First Things First, an Arizona organization that works to create a family-centered, comprehensive, collaborative and high-quality early childhood system that supports the development, health and early education of Arizona’s children birth through age 5.
The conference started off with a continental breakfast, then moved on to a fun, interactive presentation by keynote speaker Enrique Feldman. Feldman, a two-time Grammy Award–nominated composer and artist, also works on educating children, parents and those who work with young children on child development through music.
Feldman shared with the audience several hands-on brain games that can help teach young children motor skills. Parents and educators were on their feet learning to use music and physical activities to teach children the pre-literacy skills of cognitive development, memory development and pattern recognition.
At the end of Feldman’s presentation, he encouraged people to also teach their children sign language. He demonstrated a simple song using sign language.
Two breakout sessions were then held, and attendees could choose from among the following topics: Blended Families, Family Legal Concerns, Baby Sign Language, Early Childhood Literacy and Redirecting Children’s Energy.
Arizona State Library Development Director Holly Henley educated parents on literacy in the Early Childhood Literacy workshop. She shared tips and new ways for parent and teachers to read to young children, whether it be through puppets, music, drawing, writing or toys. She encouraged parents to use five simple practices that help children get ready to read: talking, singing, reading, writing and playing. For example:
Talking: When a person reads to children, he or she can use different voices to tell the story.
Singing: Try singing nursery rhymes instead of speaking them.
Reading: Take the time to explain and teach a child new words that are in the story.
Writing: A parent can have the child try writing down what they see in the book, or write their own story.
Playing: Use puppets to tell a story.
In the Blended Families workshop, presenter Robert Hickem discussed how to maintain love and respect so stepfamilies can be happy, healthy and functional.
Participants were treated to lunch and gift bags for their participation.
First Things First: Our Values
Children from birth through age 5 and their families must be our central focus at all times. Providing more and better opportunities to prepare all young children to attain success in school and life should be what drives every action we take and every decision we make.
We must use culturally responsive practices. Every person we work with and every person working at First Things First has the right to be treated with dignity and respect.
Only through continuous improvement and innovation will we be able to maximize benefits to children and their families.
We are accountable to demonstrate that our work truly improves the lives of children and their families, and promotes support for investing in early childhood development and health.
We must be strong stewards of public and private funds, demonstrating transparency and sound financial management.
Our partners, regional council members, staff and board reflect the diversity of our state and our most valuable resources. We must develop and maintain a cultural of strong collaboration and cooperation, both internally and externally, to best provide essential family supports while providing increased opportunities for young children to enjoy success in school and life.