Acton Early Years Committee: “The Heart of the Matter”

By Alison Hilborn, Our Kids Network Acton Community Hub Coordinator

Around the Acton Early Years Committee table, making a positive difference in children’s lives is what we all want.  We want young children in Acton to grow and flourish, and ultimately become successful, happy adults.  We work towards this vision through the many strong partnerships around the table. Over the past four years we’ve met once a month. We’ve brainstormed, discussed, critically analyzed, grown closer, and developed supportive, mindful relationships – relationships with “heart”.

It’s important to recognize that the partners on this committee come from organizations that have their own mandates, and yet these organizations all see the tremendous value in working together to bring change for the good to the community, and to young children and their families. We’re grateful for these Halton organizations* that support their staff to participate at the Acton Early Years Committee table. The benefits from their knowledge, expertise and perspectives on child development and this community’s unique needs are invaluable. We’ve progressed from speculating on possible solutions to grounding our discussions and actions in experiential learning, best practice efforts, and strategies.

It’s easy to see how our evidence-based initiatives that support young Acton children reflect the heart and creativity of the Acton Early Years Committee:

  • Fine and gross motor skill activity kits that respond directly to the Early Development Initiative (EDI) vulnerabilities.
  • Annual Kindergarten Fun Fairs to engage with new parents and to provide necessary service support information.
  • Connect, Play & Learn Every Day! Messaging that speaks directly to parents.

We know it will take more time, and lots of hard work, to improve on current EDI results, but the Acton Early Years Committee is dedicated!  We will use our partnerships, what we’ve learned, and our “heart” to continue to work toward addressing the underlying factors that impact young children’s developmental readiness for school – and to ensure that, in Acton, all children thrive!

Approximately 280 people attended the 2018 Acton Kindergarten Fun Fair including 89 brand, new kindergarten children!

 

*Acton Early Years Committee

Halton Catholic District School Board

St. Joseph’s Catholic Elementary School

Halton District School Board

McKenzie-Smith Bennet School

Robert Little Public School

Halton Region, Children’s Services and Healthy Families

The Halton Resource Centre

Reach Out Centre for Kids ROCK

The Town of Halton Hills

Community Living North Halton,

YMCA of the GTA

Links2Care – EarlyON

Halton Hills Libraries

Halton Children’s Aid Society

Time to Turn Back the Clock and Change the Conversation about Learning through Play

By Shawna Scale, OKN Early Years Initiative Community Impact Animator

With the end of October nearby, we will soon be reminded to turn back our clocks in order to gain a few extra hours of daylight.  It’s also an opportunity for us to literally turn back time and reflect on our experiences as children and what this time of year meant to us.

As a child, for me fall was a magical time of playing outdoors until it was too dark or too cold to stay outside. I remember collecting acorns and brightly coloured leaves on my way to school and trading them with my friends at recess, jumping into piles of raked leaves in my backyard, and running through the fields at a local farm to find the perfect pumpkin for carving.

Play was as integral then, as it is now, to a child’s physical, social and emotional health and learning.  Unfortunately, as Dr. Jean Clinton recently pointed out, the importance of play and learning is not well understood among parents who are more inclined to value traditional academic and structured activities over play.  In order to shift this thinking, we need to change the conversation to address the importance of play with families, caregivers, colleagues and others who work with children during the early years.

Dad and daughter playing together in fall leaves

Thankfully, as professionals working with families, many of us have daily opportunities to highlight the importance of play within our work and how it can be beneficial to both children, parents and caregivers.  Through the Early Years Initiative, OKN and its partners are doing this by promoting Connect, Play & Learn, Every Day!, a campaign developed to raise awareness about the importance of learning through play during the early years. Parents and practitioners alike can access information, resources and play ideas online.

The more we discuss and document the importance of play with families during visits and in programs, the more likely parents will value the benefits play has at home, in school, and in the community.