Guest Opinion by Beth Oppenheimer | Idaho Statesman
As one of the most critical services Americans depend on approached collapse during the pandemic, the child care industry finally began getting much-deserved attention. The system in the United States was severely flawed prior to the pandemic, with affordability and access challenges causing women to leave the workforce, fewer professionals entering the field and skyrocketing costs for families. The warp-speed worsening of these challenges over the last several years has left families everywhere with few options.
Despite these challenges, Idaho families and child care providers are still working to nurture Idaho’s youngest learners. Every year, Idahoans across the state come together for Week of the Young Child, an event sponsored by Idaho Association for the Education of Young Children to honor children, their families and educators in early learning in Idaho. The celebration is designed to showcase the significant role of families and early childhood educators and highlight the needs of young children in their most critical years of development.
All Idahoans have a role in shining a light on the importance of early childhood education. After all, it is the first domino to fall in the cause-and-effect chain that ultimately determines graduation rates, literacy rates, workforce participation and Idaho’s economic health. It is essential that we do not overlook the impact these programs offer for hard-working families and the nurturing and growth they offer to Idaho’s youngest children.
In Idaho so far, 19 cities are planning to issue proclamations to celebrate Week of the Young Child. These communities are leading the way in elevating the discussion around the importance of access and affordability for families. These local leaders understand this is an essential piece of the puzzle for thriving communities— that child care is infrastructure and is just as critical as the roads we drive on, the fiber we lay for modern communication and the markets in which we exchange goods and services.
Week of the Young Child also promotes a number of age-appropriate activities that early learning centers and families can do with their kids to help support development. These activities include expansion of language skills through singing and dancing; building math, literacy and collaboration skills through cooking; development of fine motor skills through building forts or structures with blocks; and fostering creative skills through creative art-making.