Week of the Young Child marked by fun, learning

Training for early learning professionals and educational activities for children was the focus last week as STEP Inc. took part in the nationwide Week of the Young Child.

STEP’s Head Start, Early Head Start, PA Pre-K Counts and the Parent-Child Home Program hosted activities that celebrated young children and all who make a difference in children’s lives. Both center- and home-based programs featured interactive fun for children and their families.

David Spring, Head Start director, was one of several guest readers who read this year’s Pennsylvania One Book selection, “Number One Sam,” a picture book about a competitive race-car driving dog who learns that some things are more important than being “number one.”

Daily, theme-based activities had the children dancing and trying out various musical instruments for Music Monday and making taco salads for Taco Tuesday. Work Together Wednesday saw some groups planting flowers. On Artsy Thursday, children painted and got to explore and create artwork. Family Friday activities ranged from children designing and creating a book about their families to sharing their hobbies and interests.

STEP’s early learning programs begin with pregnancy and grow with the child. Early Head Start teachers, home visitors and family advocates – who provide child development and family support services to pregnant women, infants and toddlers, and their families – spent a training day recently learning more about pregnancy, post-partum and miscarriage.

Ashley Stensland, Early Head Start health specialist, and Erica Ghayyada, early intervention and mental health specialist, coordinated the workshop. Guest speakers included Juliann Gombosi, registered nurse and supervisor of Susquehanna Health’s Nurse Family Partnership, who discussed fetal development and health and dietary habits that affect the fetus. Natalie McCullen, Susquehanna Health Birthplace nurse and lactation consultant, spoke on the benefits of breastfeeding.

Pam Klotz, registered nurse with the Pennsylvania Department of Health, talked about post-partum and miscarriage, the stages of grief and the healing process after a miscarriage.

The group ended the day with a tour of The Birthplace at Susquehanna Health’s Williamsport Regional Medical Center. Patricia Miller, registered nurse and director of Mother/ Baby/Child at The Birthplace, highlighted the labor and delivery rooms, where more than 1,200 deliveries occur annually; the neonatal testing unit; post-partum rooms; well-baby nursery; and Level II nursery for pre-term babies 32 weeks and greater.

Miller said The Birthplace emphasizes the importance of skin-to-skin contact between new mothers and their babies and encourages the option of the newborn “rooming-in” with the mother instead of being placed in the nursery. The tour was a way of informing the Early Head Start professionals how they can better support expectant mothers.

For more information on Head Start programs in Lycoming, Clinton and Union counties, contact STEP at 570-326-0587 or visit www.stepcorp.org or www.facebook.com/STEPHeadStart.