Kae Parker retired from twenty eight years with Transylvania County Child Development. Jamie Gilmore is Program Director with Creating A Family.  Both are involved in Fostering Families, a group which seeks to support Foster and Kinship caregivers within our community.

When we think of children, it is in the context of families. We have Driver’s Ed classes in order to ensure safety on our highways. Yet, few of us receive information on and experience with parenting, one of the most important roles many of us will have in the future.

A community that cares about children will support the needs of families in all their shapes and sizes, whether they live with both parents, with a single parent, with a kinship arrangement or in foster care.

In all of these settings, it is important that loving relationships are established.

Relationships So Important…

Parents and family members can do much to encourage young children’s learning and development in relating to themselves and others. Some practical tips:

Remember the non-verbal ways that we relate to ourselves and others

Not just infants but all preschoolers express themselves in many ways. As the adult, observe behaviors and give language to the physical and emotional cues babies show. Watch the baby’s face – is he smiling/frowning? Reaching toward the adult or away? Use your own face and body language to support what you are saying to baby.

Language about feelings can be encouraged

Expression of feelings is an important learning that all children and families can use to share in a safe and loving relationship. We name and label things around us. We can also give words to feelings. Encourage language throughout the day with self-talk and parallel talk. Know the importance of listening. Like adults and older children, very young children like to be listened to and know that what they say, verbal or not, is important. Back and forth conversations with adults help build the hardwiring in young children’s brains that will support future knowledge and success in life.

Language is best kept simple and positive

Get the child’s attention when you speak. Use simple directions and check often to see you are understood. Check with the child to see that you understand what they are saying and feeling. Check not only the words but the emotions behind the words and the behaviors.

Choose your words wisely, prompting to “Do this” instead of “Don’t do that”. An adult who admonishes “Don’t run” or “Don’t yell” may get better results with “We walk in the hallway” and “We use our quiet voices inside”.

Routines are important for children’s physical and emotional wellbeing. Especially during this time of pandemic uncertainly, consistent routines help children predict what will happen next. It gives them a sense of control and helps them organize themselves for the next task, be it mealtime or toothbrushing or moving from playtime to bedtime.

“This is what we do at our house”

Routines may include ways to tap into comfy-cozies during times of stress. Children can learn to calm themselves by asking for a snuggle or having a favorite stuffed animal or blankie to hold.

Storytime is a way to share your ideas and your family history. Sharing about the biscuits that Mamaw made was a favorite activity with my children. We would talk about this wonderful woman and make and eat the biscuits together. Stories are a way of sharing about where each of us came from. It can include just making up stories. Keep a jar of small plastic animals and other objects or stuffed animals in a basket. Take several out of the jar or basket and place on the table. As each child and adult chooses an object or animal, that person will tell a story incorporating those items. This may be like a round robin story or each person might tell a story using several animals and objects. At bedtime, you, as the parent, may want to have choices like kitty cats and quiet objects instead of dinosaurs…that is a story in itself from my past experience as a new mom!

Mealtimes are Family Times

Being together around the table doesn’t have to be just about food. At supper, ask everyone at the table to say something good they did for someone else that day and something new that they learned. Make some family conversation cards which prompt fun questions for intergenerational conversation. “Grandma, how did you get to school when you were young? What kind of heat did your house have? The best question I got from my grandchild was: “Did you ever live in a cave?”

It takes a village…

Get involved in these Family Resources for preschool children within our Community:

Transylvania County Library promotes early literacy skills and a love of reading through their Hullabaloo story times for kids ages birth – 5 years with stories, movement, songs, and more. Activities and programs for all ages of youth are also available. For more information, call (828) 884-3151 ext. 3 or visit library.transylvaniacounty.org.

The Imagination Library allows preschool children to receive their own age-appropriate books, one each month from birth through age 5. Contact Smart Start at 877-3025.
Reach Out and Read, a “prescription to read” program coordinated through Hendersonville Pediatrics, provides children a book to take home after well-child visits. Call Smart Start at 877-3025.
The Incredible Years is a program for parents and preschool children, at The Family Place. Each two hour class includes dinner and on-site child activities during parent discussion with trained facilitators. This group is held offsite. Contact The Family Place for more information: 883-4857.

Circle of Parents gives parents the opportunity to share challenges and successes, while children enjoy playtime. Contact The Family Place: Brevard, 883-4857/ Rosman, 884-6273.

Parent Chat is a time for moms, dads, foster parents and grandparents to meet with their own group to discuss issues that they have in common. Child care provided. Contact The Family Place: Brevard, 883-4857/ Rosman, 884-6273.

Playgroup is a drop-in playtime where parents and children stay together to socialize and meet new friends. Play and Learn kits provide learning materials for parents to check out and explore with their children at home. Contact The Family Place: Brevard, 883-4857/ Rosman, 884-6273.

Dad’s in Action is starting back up in October, featuring Jiu Jitsu! This is a fun, interactive group where dads and their kids get to learn together. This group is held offsite. Contact Family Place: 883-4857.
There are exciting and new activities always happening at The Family Place! You can visit their website (thefamilyplacenc.com) or join their Facebook page to view the schedule and join the fun!