OKLAHOMA CITY — Smart Start Central Oklahoma (SSCO) will bring its Early Birds program back to more than 20 local schools and community partner locations in Oklahoma County this fall beginning in September.
Early Birds is a free program for parents of children under five designed to promote healthy parent-child relationships and interactions, provide children with positive early learning experiences, and support parents as their child’s first and most influential teacher, all of which contribute to school readiness.
“Early Birds was developed on a foundation of evidence and research pertaining to early childhood development, which has shown that the years before age five are the most critical for a child's developing brain,” said Stacy Dykstra, executive director, Smart Start Central Oklahoma. “During a child’s first five years of life, the parent is the primary and most important teacher and role model, so it’s important to give them the support and skills they need in order to serve as confident, effective teachers of their children.”
During each 90-minute class parents are taught how to take advantage of teachable moments throughout the day, from household chores to trips to the store to meal time. A trained instructor covers five core areas including developmental milestones, parent and child activities, everyday learning, purposeful parenting, and family health and wellness. Topics are appropriate to each age group and every parent receives a free bag full of educational toys and books to stimulate learning and development at home. The open atmosphere also encourages discussion, the sharing of best practices and resources, and the opportunity to meet other parents within their community. Free onsite childcare is provided so that attendees can fully participate in each class.
Florencia Briglie, an Early Birds instructor for almost 10 years, said the benefits of the program are obvious.
“I firmly believe in the program; it makes a change in a family's life,” Briglie said. “When parents are supported as their children’s first teachers, they become involved in every day activities that help develop closer relationships.”
Parents may attend Early Birds beginning with a prenatal class, and then three times per year until their child is five and ready to enter kindergarten. In support of school readiness, Early Birds enables parents to help their children develop healthy social-emotional skills, including getting along with others, self-regulation, empathizing, and identifying one’s feelings and the feelings of others.
Classes are offered in Oklahoma County public school districts including Oklahoma City, Putnam City, Edmond, Western Heights, and Mid-Del. Additionally, community partners including Head Start, Mercy Hospital, Central Oklahoma Healthy Start and Variety Care offer the Early Birds program. Classes are offered in both English and Spanish. Approximately 4,000 families attend Early Birds each year.
A complete schedule can be found online at www.smartstartcentraloklahoma.org/early-birds.