The theme of the 2014 Week of the Young Child™ is Early Years Are Learning Years®. Events may be planned by individual programs or may be the result of collaboration with other community partners. This section includes suggested activities with a focus on the following:
The activities described include options suited to small and large groups and include links to NAEYC resources, as well as to other organizations with related materials.
Raising Public Awareness
Many communities have had success in coordinating WOYC efforts that create broad visibility and support for the importance of the early years. Consider these community wide activities:
Coordinate with community members to plan events in public places.
- Organize festivals, fairs, or exhibitions at a community park, shopping mall, bank, or community center. Invite schools, agencies, and local businesses that serve children and their families to provide information about their programs and services. Any group reserving a booth could be asked to provide an activity for young children to enjoy. This can be a great way to have a fun-filled event that provides valuable information and goods to parents and highlights the importance of young children to the community.
- Invite local retailers to participate in a community-wide event with local organizations. Businesses can show their support of early childhood education while parents learn about local early learning opportunities.
Invite community members to visit high-quality programs.
- Sponsor Saturday open houses and program tours. Highlight facilities, services, and programs for children in your community through open houses and tours. These events allow family child care homes, centers, schools, agencies, and other programs serving children and their families to inform the public about available services. Local child care councils, pediatric clinics, foster homes, parks and recreation programs, and state-funded projects may also want to be included. Springtime is a perfect opportunity for a tour, because many families will be considering programs in which to enroll their children in the fall. Tours should highlight accredited programs whenever possible. This gives staff recognition for their efforts to provide a high-quality program and helps families and the public better appreciate program characteristics associated with good quality.
- Host tours for public officials or other dignitaries. Unlike tours for parents, tours by public officials or other dignitaries are better arranged during normal operating hours. Keep the group of visitors small to minimize disruptions to the program. Coordinate the visit carefully with program personnel beforehand so that the visit will go smoothly. Scheduling a visit around snack or mealtime is often popular, as is having the dignitary participate in some type of learning activity, such as reading a book to or fingerpainting with the children. A visit by a local dignitary will often be considered newsworthy by local media.
Publicly recognize those who work with and for young children in your community.
- Honor those who have significantly contributed to the quality of services for young children and their families in your program, school, or community.
- Hold a recognition reception for the centers accredited by NAEYC or family child care providers accredited by the National Association for Family Child Care (NAFCC).
- Ask religious leaders to give special recognition during religious services to children, families, and those who work for or with young children. Provide information for use in bulletins, such as famous quotations about children or key facts and figures about the status of children and families.
Promote partnerships with business and community leaders.
- Hold a seminar or forum for business and/or community leaders to discuss how well your community is meeting the needs of its youngest citizens to make the early years count and specific steps that local businesses could take to further these efforts. Feature business leaders who have already made the commitment to support early childhood programs within the community as speakers. Approach the local chamber of commerce as a co-sponsor.
- Arrange for Affiliate leaders to speak to service organizations or other groups with regularly scheduled meetings that occur during the Week of the Young Child™. Offer to do brown-bag seminars for parents at their workplace. Talk about the importance of children’s earliest years and ways that the group can help to make these learning years count for all children within the community.
- Meet with business reporters of your local newspaper, and encourage them to do a story about the ways that local businesses are or could be supporting early childhood programs. Another story could be on the "business" of providing child care—all the factors that go into providing a good program for children and their costs as compared to the price parents pay.
Public Policy Advocacy
Build on existing community celebrations held during Week of the Young Child™, such as children's art festivals, community concerts and family fairs.
- Have the Governor or Mayor Issue a Proclamation.
Many Affiliates work with their Governor or Mayor to draft a proclamation about Week of the Young Child™. Affiliates invite elected officials to kick-off a Week of the Young Child™ event by reading the proclamation. Use the public appearance of elected officials as an opportunity to speak about specific initiatives and to thank them for their past support. Identify families that reporters can interview to highlight the impact that these policies and initiatives have or could have on families.
- Honor Children's Champions.
Publicly acknowledge the contributions of community leaders and advocates during the event by awarding them with a "Champion of Young Children Award." Think broadly about those in the community who have made a difference for young children and solicit suggestions from community and business partners as well as Affiliate members. Send a press release to the media about the awardees and the importance of quality early childhood education.
- Mobilize families.
As part of a campaign to mobilize grassroots support for a child care training and compensation initiative, Coleman Advocates for Children in San Francisco distributed postcards to families at their annual "Baby Brigade." They asked families to send the postcards to the Mayor and Board of Supervisors voicing the family's support for the initiative. Elected officials took notice of public support for the initiative when they received 10,000 letters and postcards. As a result, the stipend program received $1.15 million in July 1999.
- Expand WOYC planning committee.
Committees can share responsibilities. One group can plan events for children and families already involved in early childhood education. Another group can arrange events in the larger community to educate others about family services and important issues in early childhood education.
Promote the theme and key messages of Week of the Young Child™ throughout the year.
- Celebrate the Month of the Young Child.
Michigan AEYC celebrates the Month of the Young Child and designates a focus for each week. Previous themes included: Celebrating Community Partnerships; Promoting Healthy Children and Families; Recognizing Early Childhood Professionals; and Advocating on Behalf of Children and Families. Use NAEYC's Event Planning Handbook for activity suggestions and resources focused on reading and writing, child health, and advocacy.
- Coordinate related events.
Avoid duplication of effort and promote greater awareness of the needs of young children in the community by coordinating your event planning with groups that have related campaigns in the spring (e.g. April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month, May 1 is Worthy Wage Day and June 1 is Stand for Children Day, May 12 is National Provider Appreciation Day).
Recruit families to join grassroots advocacy efforts during the Week of the Young Child™ and throughout the year.
- Recruit families to join your grassroots advocacy network
During community and program events distribute newsletters and fliers to families with information about your Affiliate's public policy work and how to join your grassroots advocacy network. Ask program directors to help recruit families willing to talk about their child care experiences with policy makers and the media. Then invite families to participate in Affiliate advocacy and media training and keep them informed of the Affiliates' public policy efforts.
- Promote local action
During Week of the Young Child™ have your Affiliate draft a petition or resolution for a local council's consideration on behalf of all children within the community. Then arrange to have a group of children and their families present it at a city council meeting. You can follow up with one or more town meetings and invite elected officials to hear directly from families, teachers, and service provider about the unmet needs of young children in the community.
Reading and Writing
More and more attention is being paid to the need to help children learn to read. What better way to show that the Early Years Are Learning Years® than to promote children's literacy by connecting your Week of the Young Child™ activities with others in your community?
Coordinate special program or classroom activities that include parents, businesses, and other community partners.
- Invite families to participate in your story time and other reading activities. Some parents, grandparents, or other family members may enjoy reading or telling stories to a group. Others might become a reading partner to a child in the classroom, while some parents may prefer to chaperone a field trip to the library.
- Hold a kick-off breakfast for family and community reading partners. Photograph children with their partner (preferably someone who can read with the child more than once a week). Then post the pictures on a sheet of paper. Ask the child-adult partners to write their comments about the books they read under their picture throughout the week.
- Ask businesses or other community partners to help fund a project to create story theme bags with books, games, and suggested family activities to do at home. Plan a kick-off event during Week of the Young Child™ to demonstrate how the bags can be used and to recognize business and other community partners.
- Have children write or dictate their opinions of classroom books and rate them with stars. Tally the results and post the chart in the classroom. Publish in your parent newsletter a list of the five-star books along with a few student reviews.
Work with the local library, literacy organizations, civic clubs, book store owners and other members of the education community to plan community wide celebrations.
- Organize a Children's Book Festival to celebrate reading. Children and families can dress as their favorite book characters. Businesses or organizations might provide free books to children or families can participate in a book swap. Local celebrities or public officials can read stories and theater groups can perform puppet shows or skits.
- Sponsor a mini-conference on children's early literacy for caregivers, teachers, and parents. Ask experts in the field to present a variety of workshops on topics such as how children learn to read and write, how to choose books for children, techniques for conducting story time, and supporting children's literacy development at home.
- Hold an essay or poetry contest and arrange for entries to be published in the local newspaper along with the names of all participants. Publicly present awards to the winners and invite public officials and the press to attend the awards ceremony.
- Plan a community wide early childhood professionals' recognition dinner. Ask directors and principals to identify teachers and caregivers who have made a difference in children's literacy development. Give those teachers special recognition and ask them to share their successful strategies.
Violence and Child Abuse Prevention
The violence that plagues our nation has many sources, and its elimination will require systematic attention at many levels. Most importantly, the citizens of our nation must become outraged at the victimization and must turn this outrage into positive action and increased resources toward preventing violence in the lives of children. All adults must assume the responsibility for keeping children safe. Our society cannot afford the devastating effects of failing to protect its children. Each of us individually must commit ourselves to the actions that are most appropriate to our own sphere of influence. The early childhood profession, individually and collectively, must work to influence public commitment, action, and policy and collaborate with other organizations to reduce the causes of violence. The early childhood profession must also address issues of violence in children's lives through partnerships with parents and other professionals; early childhood programs and curriculum; and professional preparation, development, and support.
Promote good early childhood education as a violence prevention strategy.
- Have children write stories and draw pictures about how they are learning to resolve conflicts and ask families to write brief testimonials that describe the skills their children are learning in the program. With the permission of families post the stories, pictures and testimonials in a public place such as the library or mall. The items may be used as a backdrop for a public ceremony to kick-off Week of the Young Child™.
- Host a community forum on violence prevention and ask law enforcement officials to talk about the School and Youth Violence report of Fight Crime: Invest in Kids that includes recommendations for providing quality early childhood programs to young children.
Expand your program and community efforts to prevent violence.
- Prior to WOYC, hold informal meetings to assess staff training needs and develop a plan for providing professional development opportunities in one or more violence prevention areas (eg. conflict management, media violence, supporting children exposed to violence). During WOYC kick-off a series of onsite workshops, brown-bag seminars, and/or peer network meetings and arrange for follow-up support and consultations as needed.
- Organize staff "field trips" to community agencies that serve children and families and invite representatives to visit your program. During visits you can become more informed about family resources and identify key contacts for further discussion of common goals and potential collaboration.
- Encourage families to "turn off their TVs" by organizing a family night. During the night offer adult-child activities that families can replicate at home. Provide families with an activity kit that includes lists of favorite children's books, suggestions for parent-child activities, and tips for monitoring children's television watching. Ask business partners to contribute materials such as crayons, books, or other items for the activity kit.
- Organize brown-bag lunch discussions on media violence and discipline for parents at their workplace.
Keeping children healthy is an ongoing challenge to parents, teachers, and community health workers alike. The good news is that there are a variety of Week of the Young Child™ activities that can help promote stronger prevention efforts, healthier environments, and better access to health care in your community.
Coordinate with community health partners to organize special programs or classroom activities.
- Go on a field trip to a dentist's office, hospital, grocery store, farmers market, or other places in the community where children can learn about health and nutrition. Be sure that you are welcome and have a guide who will make the trip both fun and informative for young children.
- Ask parents, community board members, and staff to form a health and safety task force to review your program's health and safety policies, conduct observations in classrooms, use a checklist to identify any health or safety hazards in the building or on the playground, and/or to organize clean-up days to make facility improvements.
- Spread the word to families and staff about how to deal with common health problems through workshops, newsletter articles, and health brochures.
Work with community health and social service agencies, business partners, children's advocates, and civic organizations to plan community wide health events.
- Organize entertainment and activities for a family health fair. Recruit health professionals to conduct health screenings, immunizations, and consultations with families. Coordinate with your state's Children's Health Insurance Program to help families apply for the new low-cost (and in some cases, free) health insurance program available to working families.
- Hold a policy forum about your child care licensing standards. Invite parents, child care professionals, and health experts to speak about health and safety risks that are not adequately addressed or enforced.
- Recruit sponsors to develop community kits for new parents to take home from the hospital. Kits might include health and safety tips, community resource contact numbers, discounts on child safety equipment such as electric socket covers and baby gates, and child safety seats.
- Work with law-enforcement and other community safety professionals and volunteers to conduct child safety seat checks in community locations.
Creativity and Play
The creative arts and play help children enhance their literacy and math skills, social studies and science knowledge, and support their physical development. In addition, the creative arts and play support children's social and emotional development, including their interpersonal skills.