Mountain Area children learn while playing at First 5

July 16, 2013 

Learning while playing makes it easier for children to develop academically, physically, cognitively and socially. First 5 Madera County's Family Resource Center on Crane Valley Road (426) adjacent to the Sierra Star.First 5 aims to provide meaningful experiences to young children and encourage parents to provide positive family interactions to establish a foundation for future success in school and in life.

The center serves as a referral center for child development services in the area, as well as provide trainings and access regarding car seats.

The Mountain Area Family Resource Center staffs a part time First 5 Family Advocacy Facilitator, Karen Weaver, to provide a range of services and activities for parents and children in the Mountain Area including child development, literacy, and nutrition and fitness classes.

At the Oakhurst center, parents along with their children can participate in weekly activities for all children 0-5 such as Alphabet Soup and Little Explorers. Recently added to the roster of weekly activities is Messy Mondays, an activity that allows children to participate in more hands-on activities.

To ensure that the community at-large has information about First 5 and the Oakhurst center, a combination of traditional and nontraditional methods of outreach are used. Karen Weaver, First 5's Family Advocacy Facilitator in Oakhurst, participates in community events to provide a calendar of activities, nutrition education, car seats, New Parent Kits, and many other resources for parents of children 0-5.

First 5 also uses social media to reach families in the Mountain Area. First 5 Madera County's Facebook page is proving to be a successful tool to help inform families about activities at the center and general parenting tips. By using Facebook, families can receive the information they need instantly without having to travel to town.

By establishing these centers, First 5 Madera County has fulfilled the goal set out by the First 5 Madera County Commission to create "one-stop shops" or Family Resource Centers throughout Madera County where families can go for information and referrals about community resources and services available. This network of Family Resource Centers is owned and operated by the Commission.

First 5 Madera County Resource Centers promote the idea of serving the whole child through coordinated services that are easily identifiable, accessible and seamlessly linked to health clinics, preschools and other locations highly frequented by parents. First 5 Madera County operates similar facilities in Madera and Chowchilla, which have had more than 44,000 visits by families since it opened in October 2003 and September 2009, respectively.

First 5 Madera County Research shows that a child's brain develops most dramatically in the first five years and what parents and caregivers do during these years to support their child's growth will have a meaningful impact throughout life. Based on this research, California voters passed Proposition 10 in 1998, adding a 50 cents-per-pack tax on cigarettes to support programs for expectant parents and children ages 0 to 5.

In the fall, First 5 Madera County will provide expanded programs in the outlying communities partnering with preschools, churches, libraries and community centers in Bass Lake, Ahwahnee, North Fork, Coarsegold, Yosemite Lakes Park, O'Neals and Raymond via the "FRC Express Van."

First 5 Madera County distributes approximately $2 million a year in Prop. 10 revenues to programs throughout the county.

For more information on available services for Mountain Area families with young children, call (559) 661-5155.

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