Friday, May 29, 2015

An animal kingdom adventure for Parents As Teachers participants

Child development experts agree that in order to develop critical early literacy skills, frequent exposure to words through conversation and books is extremely important, starting the day a child is born. At a recent Parent As Teachers event, families discovered that a child’s early learning and language skills can also be cultivated during an adventure at the zoo!

Volunteer John Huff explains snakes to a group of captivated families.

Parents as Teachers is a home visiting program for families with children 0-5 years. During bi-weekly visits, parent educators work to strengthen families by sharing tips around parent-child interaction, development-centered parenting, and family well-being. Through monthly group connections, the organization connects parents to local support services and fosters their engagement to schools and other community organizations.

Parents As Teacher’s recent excursion to Prescott’s Heritage Park Zoological Sanctuary proved to be a literacy rich encounter as young children were introduced to beautiful beasts, bugs and reptiles. The sanctuary, formerly known as Heritage Park Zoo, is a non-profit wildlife preserve dedicated to the conservation and protection of native and exotic animals. Sanctuary volunteer and snake handler John Huff shared: "Lots of moms and young children come to the Zoo. Exposure helps children see how amazing the world around them is and helps them become better aquatinted with their environment". When asked if exposure to the animals helped to reduce children’s fears, Huff responded, "Sometimes. One benefit, however is that it can help children practice kindness."

Ali and Asher check out "Sash" an American Black Bear.
Because they discover new concepts, sights and sounds, outings such as the Parents As Teachers Zoo visit help young children start to associate objects with words, and those experiences help to shape their understanding of the world around them. "We have been to the zoo before but this is the first time that Ali is actually enjoying the animals!" said Karen, a grandparent in attendance. "When I snapped the photo of Asher and Ali looking at the bear, Ali was continually growling like a bear! Her favorite animal of the day, or at least to name, was the Emu! Both children were able to brush goats, pet a turtle, chase chickens, see a snake up close, climb on a rope spider web, and then we all took a break from the sun and danced in the gazebo to Grandma singing the rumba".

Enthusiastic about their visit, families were also able to practice developing their child’s social and emotional skills: "So much fun to be had that there was a two year old tantrum to work through when leaving!" said one caregiver. Other parents agreed: "I’m glad PAT had a zoo day" said Anne Parmeter, mother to 2 year old Benjamin. "We got in free and got to see all the animals. I took lots of photos that my son will enjoy seeing later".

Parents As Teachers, a program of the Arizona Children's Association , is supported by First Things First. For more information about First Things First, please visit If you are interested in learning more about PAT please contact Rainee Crabtree at (928) 443-1991 x2021