Andrew Chavez Jr., 4, traced a looping pattern on a large sheet of red construction paper.
“I’m making a fireman’s hat,” he said. “Daddy, can you help me?”
Two hands grasped the red plastic scissors, one big, one small, and began inching around the curving line. Then Andrew took over and cut the paper by himself.
A song began playing in the Head Start classroom, and Andrew danced.
Chavez Sr. said, “If you are going to dance, you have to put down the scissors.”
Fathers and mothers were invited to an open house last week at Casa Grande Head Start to experience activities in all the classrooms and on the playground.
Laekyn Puentes, 4, was making paper dolls with her parents, Kim and Jason.
“I want the pink one,” she said.
They glued on plastic eyes that rolled, buttons, sequins, colored macaroni, tiny fabric flowers, bits of string and wrapping paper.
“We’re drawing me!” Laekyn said.
Kim said, “I think we should give her a bracelet.”
Other children and parents put leaves on the Head Start Family Tree with their thumbprints, planted sunflower seeds and made stop signs, collages and airplanes out of clothespins.
Shondell Jonas, 4, was on the playground with her brother, Lindell, 3, and their father, Shawndell Jonas.
“In a little while, he’ll be here full time,” the father said.
Lindell still had home visits from Early Head Start. Shondell was in regular Head Start for ages 3 to 5.
Early Head Start home visitor Linda Nyoro said parents are their children’s first teachers. People hear a lot about mothers in the home, but not as much about fathers.
“They are just as important as moms!” Nyoro said.
Head Start has socials twice a month to encourage parents to socialize with their children and with other parents, and to encourage children to socialize with each other. Staff incorporated a “fatherhood event” at the last social to encourage more fathers to come out and do things with their children.
Nyoro said fathers are becoming more involved with their young children’s care. Among her clients last year were four fathers who cared for their children while their wives worked.
Her job is to visit the homes of first-time moms and dads as a mentor, bring information and encourage moms to breastfeed and have prenatal care before the baby is born, then she brings developmental activities for them to do with their babies from birth to age 3. Sometimes she brings toys for parents and children to play with together. Sometimes they learn with things around the house, like how to use a spoon or a fork. Home visitors have a curriculum to follow, but parents decide the goals for that week.
When parents teach a task they model it first, she said. “If you model it, children will watch and want to try it.”
In Early Head Start everything is learned through playing, singing and reading, she said.
Parents help their young children develop motor skills, language skills, social skills, gross and fine motor skills and cognitive skills, like learning colors and numbers to help prepare them for Head Start, which continues developing those skills.
Head Start is a federal program that was designed to give preschoolers and their families the skills and experiences they need to succeed in kindergarten, where they will learn to read and write.