There are some new tools that help caregivers improve preschoolers’ developmental skills. To improve school readiness among children up to 5 years-old, particularly from underserved and low-income communities, YMCA of the USA has launched a national pilot initiative called the Early Learning Readiness Program for Informal Family, Friend and Neighbor Caregivers.
For many working parents, preparing young children for kindergarten can be daunting, especially when that child spends an average of 33 hours each week being looked after by a grandparent, other relative, friend or babysitter, according to a 2011 report by the U.S. Census Bureau.
Not surprisingly, most of these informal caregivers focus on loving care but generally do not have early childhood development expertise. The unintended result is a large number of children not enrolled in preschool who may reach kindergarten underprepared.
The Early Learning Readiness Program’s innovative approach provides informal caregivers with tools and support to give the children in their care much needed early learning intervention by providing a stimulating, preschool-like experience through learning centers that support the skills and confidence of caregivers and offer high-quality physical, emotional and cognitive experiences for kids.
Caregivers and children attend bi-weekly meetings together at neighborhood locations such as local Ys, community centers, libraries, schools and places of worship.
The pilot program is showing great early results. Based on a post-participation survey at 20 Early Learning Readiness Program pilot sites, 82 percent of caregivers said children in their care know their numbers as a result of the program’s tools. And, 91 percent reported an increase in the child’s ability to follow instruction.
Launched two years ago and now a model for success, more than 40 Ys across the country currently offer FREE Early Learning Readiness Program opportunities for informal caregivers and the children they care for, with the number of locations expected to grow in 2014. To learn more about the Y’s commitment to youth development and new tools that help caregivers improve preschoolers’ developmental skills, visit ymca.net.