The Young Audiences Arts for Learning affiliate in Miami, Florida designed and implemented a highly successful early education program for toddlers. I had the opportunity to speak with their Senior Program Director, Dia Carter Webb about the program and her experiences running it.
Young Audiences Arts for Learning: Why is it so important that toddlers receive early access to the arts? How will this program contribute to the toddler’s increased life-long success?
Dia Carter Webb: Toddlerhood provides a valuable window of opportunity for kids to learn and develop the skills they need to succeed in life. Exposure to intentional arts experiences for young children can have a profound effect on their literacy and development. The arts awaken and stimulate neural pathways in the brain that help develop memory, problem solving and the power of responding and listening.
The Baby ArtsPlay!™ program is designed to meet the developmental needs of children as they grow. Each experience increases language development, movement, and physical coordination, as well as stimulates the brain. All of this leads to creative and critical thinking- a necessity for learning and life-long success.
YA: What activities will the toddlers do during the program and will there be a literacy component?
Webb: The Baby Artsplay!™ program provides children ages three months to three years of age and caregivers who care for them with a holistic early childhood music, drama and movement program aimed at supporting the children’s cognitive, social, emotional, and physical development.
Caregivers and Toddlers Experience:
-Movement activities for coordination, body awareness, exploration of space, body control and the pure joy of movement
-Exploring instruments and props such as rhythm sticks, jingles, drums, shaker eggs, scarves and puppets
-Bouncing and rocking games
-Wiggle and peek-a-boo games
-Singing, chanting, vocalizing
YA: Is there an interactive component for their care givers during the program and will they participate in the education process?
Webb: The Baby ArtsPlay!™ program is designed for caregivers and children to participate together. Taught by veteran Wolf Trap Teaching Artists, the classes actively engage participants in arts experiences designed to include all learning styles in multisensory activities that stimulate children’s vocalizations and language; use steady beat as a tool to assist children in focusing and self-regulation; offer children the opportunity to experience a variety of music tempos and movement qualities; encourage children’s social emotional skills; provide experiences that stimulate children to make connections to their world and environment and promote early literacy and vocabulary as an integral part of early childhood development.
YA: How did the professional development help the South Florida Wolf Trap artists in preparing for teaching such a young audience?
Webb: The professional development for this program involved an in-depth and hands on week of discussion, observation and working through lesson plans. A4L’s artists were able to see a Wolf Trap Master Teaching Artist run a mini-residency with a variety of toddlers to see how the activities can layer and grow to best develop the young students. After each demonstration, they learned a series of age-appropriate songs, games, and movements and how to assess such young learners. Artists were able to create their own lessons with feedback from the Master Teacher and left the week feeling completely ready to take on this new program.
YA: When the toddlers are old enough, many of them will move on to your early childhood program. How will this program compliment the Baby Arts Play and will they continue to develop similar skills?
Webb: Arts for Learning / Miami intentionality developed a framework that provides programming to serve children from three months to five years of age in early learning centers. This model allows childcare centers/schools an opportunity to serve all classrooms with Baby ArtsPlay!™ [3 month- 36 months]: and A4L’s Preschool Program [3-5 year olds]. Children and caregivers at these centers receive the benefits of Baby ArtsPlay!™ as toddlers and will continue to develop those necessary skills for school readiness [self-regulation, social, language and literacy] in their preschool years. The programs complement each other and are ideal for any growing child. In addition, each round of embedded caregiver/teacher professional development leaves behind a legacy of skills that can impact classroom after classroom of students.
YA: Thank you Dia and have a great 4th of July weekend!