OXFORD, Miss. – As the Oxford community prepares for the opening of an Excel by 5 Family Resource Center in November, a number of educational materials are available to parents of young children.
Among them is a child development card set called “Boost Your Baby’s Brainpower” developed by University of Mississippi special education professor Maxine Harper. The cards outline brain development activities for parents and caregivers of babies, toddlers and preschoolers.
“Our goal is to help parents enjoy their time with their children, especially in those early formative years,” explained Harper, who also is interim director of the university’s Center for Educational Research and Evaluation. “We want to help parents learn what they can do with their children from eight weeks to 5 years old that will help them identify milestones and promote their children’s brain development.”
The 22-card set is co-sponsored by United Way of Oxford-Lafayette County and Caterpillar and will be distributed free to parents through the Family Resource Center. Until the center opens at 1097 Jackson Ave., the cards can be purchased online at http://www.maxineharper.com.
The cards outline activities that parents can enjoy with their children to help encourage rapid mental development from infancy to age 5. These activities can be as basic as cuddling and talking with newborns to counting exercises and drawing activities with 4-to-5-year-olds.
“Research shows that so much is happening in the first weeks and months of a child’s life,” said Kathleen Sullivan, a visiting professor of education involved in helping the Lafayette-Oxford-University community reach its Excel by 5 certification. “Even if you’re just a few months behind, it can be hard to catch up. We’re hoping people will seek these materials out, maybe as a gift for a baby shower. It’s a guide for parents that’s not as intimidating as a book.”
Funded in part by a grant from Chevron, Excel by 5 is a statewide, community-based certification program designed to improve the well-being of children by age 5. To gain the designation, communities must meet a variety of standards in parent training, community participation, child care and more. Nine Mississippi communities hold the certificate and 26 are working toward certification.
The L-O-U community has worked toward an Excel by 5 certification since 2009, and Oxford United Way executive director Kathy Sukanek said the community has completed more than 70 percent of the requirements needed to obtain the credential. She said she expects the community to reach its goal by next summer.
“There are a number of materials that we want to share with families in our local community,” Sukanek said. “I think it’s great that as a community we can pull together and develop new ways to educate parents on how to help their children grow and develop during such an important time.”
For more information, visit the “Boost Your Baby’s Brainpower.“