Merced County will take part in the 43rd annual “Week of the Young Child,” a national celebration that focuses public attention on the development of children and the needs of their families.
Educational family events are planned throughout the week through the collaborative efforts of Gateway Association for the Education of Young Children and First 5 Merced County,
The years from birth to 8 are crucial for shaping a child’s learning and development, according to the National Association for the Education of Young Children. During this time, the foundation for a child’s success in school and later life is set. The weeklong celebration is a time for local and regional affiliates of NAEYC to recognize early childhood development programs and services.
In Merced County, “Week of the Young Child” kicked off Sunday with the Kite Festival at Livingston Middle School, where dozens of children flew and chased kites with their families and friends. The celebration will culminate Saturday with an activity-filled day scheduled from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Applegate Park, 1045 W. 25th St,.
Saturday’s day at the park will include activities for children and informational booths from several local health and education services. Entertainment will be provided by dancers, taiko drummers and children’s music artist CJ.
“Week of the Young Child” is also a way to honor parents and those who work with or care for children, said Patti Kishi, preschool coordinator forAtwater Elementary School District, .
“It’s important to take time to reflect and value the life of our young children,” she said. “We must provide them with the best opportunity so that they’ll become successful contributing adults.”
Kishi is helping to put together the Bubble Art Exhibition at Bellevue Elementary School, where children will learn how to make human-sized soap bubbles. The event will be in the school cafeteria from 6 to 7 p.m. on Wednesday and will be open to the public.
“Week of the Young Child” will arrive in the Dos Palos area on Friday at 8:30 p.m. for a screening of “Despicable Me 2” at O’Banion Park.
The objective of these events is to help the community understand the importance of early development in an accessible and entertaining way, said Stephanie Aguilar, program specialist at First 5 Merced.
“Our goal is to provide free and great quality events so that parents can spend more time with their children and be better families,” she said.
The large turnout for previous similar events indicates the community’s understanding and support of early childhood development programs, said Linda Kaercher, Head Start director at the Merced County Office of Education.
“It’s exciting that Merced celebrates this (national event) in a bigger way than most other communities,” said Kaercher. “We’ve been doing this for years, and the community’s participation in all of the activities really shows their commitment to the children of Merced County.”