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Early years are learning years

Month of the Young Child to bring awareness to early childhood education

Austin Seewald, 4, left, laughs while Alexis Herndon, 4, pulls an imaginary Play-Doh meal out of a pot Wednesday at the Moffat County Early Childhood Center. The eighth annual Children’s Festival, scheduled for 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, will offer activities for young children and their families.

Learning doesn't begin in kindergarten, said Sarah Hepworth, Moffat County Early Childhood Center director.

Toddlers and preschoolers need education opportunities, too.

From playing with other children to developing motor and coordination skills, kindergarten teachers expect their students to arrive in the classroom with a certain level of understanding.

However, it takes a community to understand and provide for the needs of young children, Hepworth said.

To promote awareness of early childhood needs and available local services, the Moffat County Early Childhood Coalition declared April the Month of the Young Child.

To kick off the celebration, the eighth annual Children's Festival will take place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday in Centennial Mall, 1111 W. Victory Way.

The event will feature about 20 booths hosted by social services and educational organizations in Moffat County.

"Our goal is to make people aware of the importance of early childhood education," Hepworth said. "A lot of people in the community don't realize that 3- and 4-year-olds have needs, or realize that they need to have preparatory experiences before they go off to kindergarten."

Hepworth said every booth Saturday will offer a fun activity for young children, as well as resources for parents.

There will be a dinosaur-themed booth with a staged archaeological dig and a fishing station, as well as prizes and giveaways.

The Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association will offer a booth that will help educate parents on immunizations and well-child checkups.

"We want to give them any info that will help parents in supporting their young children," Hepworth said.

Also in attendance will be Moffat County Social Services, Colorado State Patrol, Moffat County Libraries and the Boys & Girls Club of Craig.

"Hopefully, it will be a day of fun for really young kids," Hepworth said. "And hopefully parents will leave with an idea of the services in the community to relate to a family with young children.

"If just one person makes a connection with an agency and gets an issue resolved, it will be a success."

In addition to the Children's Festival, the Early Childhood Coalition is sponsoring other ongoing events, including displays of preschool artwork at the Craig branch of the Moffat County Libraries and chalk-art around the Moffat County Courthouse.

Also, the second annual chili dinner and parent education night will take place from 6 to 8 p.m. April 27 at the Moffat County School District administration building, 775 Yampa Ave.

After dinner, Dr. Craig Eckroth will provide parents with information about early vision development.

He will talk about the Infant See Program, inform parents of early vision issues and their prevention or treatment, as well as answer questions. The event is free and child care is provided.