From the time they are born until they turn 8, children will develop the skills, values and self-esteem that will dictate their success later in life. Those early years are so important that the month of April has been proclaimed National Month of the Young Child a time when adults are educated on the importance of early childhood education and development.
In Moffat County, April is Celebrate Children Month and April 7-13 is Week of the Young Child.
The purpose of the Week of the Young Child is to focus public attention on the needs of young children and their families and to recognize the early childhood programs and services that meet those needs.
"We do this to educate the community about how important those early years are in the development of children," said Sarah Hepworth, director of the Moffat County School District Early Childhood Center. "We do this because we feel a lot of people are unaware of the efforts being made in Moffat County on behalf of children from birth to 8 years old. We've also discovered that age is where it really counts. If you don't have a really good foundation, you really don't have a good start in life."
The National Association for the Education of Young Children established the week in 1971, recognizing that the early childhood years lay the foundation for children's success in school and later life.
Moffat County has participated in the celebration for more than a decade, focusing on child abuse prevention. Four years ago, that focus was expanded to include child development, services and education.
"Each year we focus on what we think the needs are," Hepworth said.
This year education of parents and caregivers is the driving force behind the celebration, but child abuse prevention remains a topic. People are encouraged to wear blue ribbons this month in recognition of the devastating effects of child abuse and neglect.
The Moffat County Early Childhood Coalition has planned several events this month, including an ice cream social, health fair, lectures for parents and caregivers and a children's festival.
"We felt we needed to offer some fun, free things to do for really young kids," Hepworth said. "Everything that's free and fun in this community is offered to bigger kids. We also want to educate parents on what are appropriate activities for kids this age."
Sunrise Preschool and Childcare will also participate by hosting a week of activities for its students.
On April 8, students will take a field trip to the Museum of Northwest Colorado.
The next day, they will tour The Memorial Hospital in an effort to familiarize themselves with the facility and its equipment with the hope of alleviating any fear they might have if they are ever hospitalized.
On April 10, community members will visit the school to read to the children and play with them.
On April 11, the children can be found on the sidewalks in front of the Moffat County Courthouse with pieces of chalk doing sidewalk art. Friday, the school will sponsor a parent-and-child picnic to close its celebration of Week of the Young Child.
Sunrise Preschool and Childcare has participated in Week of the Young Child for several years.
"It's just as important for people of our community to know how important education and quality of care of our young children are," owner Judi Whilden.
"This week brings into focus early childhood education and people who are responsible for the care and education of children."
Research shows that young children in high-quality educational programs are more likely to develop the language, pre-mathematics and social skills they need to succeed once they enter school.
"The emphasis is just awareness of how moldable children are at that age and how that determines the success they have later in life," Hepworth said. "We really want people to celebrate their children and the blessings they bring to us as adults.