It’s time to sign up for E.C.F.E. (Early Childhood Family Education), and I am once again signing up- my third straight year. My first year I was in a Birth-5 class with my baby and the second year I was in a Birth-3 class with my toddler and baby. If your child is under 3, I’d recommend the Birth-3 class. I found the discussion more relevant and parent advice more useful because the parents had children going through similar changes. There are also dad, evening, language-specific, and LGBT classes, among others.
Each week there is a different theme, such as camping, outdoors, animals, or shapes, and activities that relate to the weekly theme (touch and feel, hands-on, art, puzzles, make believe, motor skills). There is always some form of art project (stamps, clay, riding cars into paint and then onto maps) and a touch and feel table (yarn, bubbles, water, sand, feathers) and sometimes more active play, such as signs that tell children to hop and, once, a wheelchair (though my toddler thought that meant she could ride the motorized wheelchairs at the stores). My school divides the children by age group into two classrooms. Each classroom is full of toys: slides, pretend kitchens, easels, balls, all manner of toy cars and plastic animals, lots of vintage Fisher Price toys, baby sensory toys, etc.
Class begins with parent-child time, where you play with your child for a designated time, and then the parents leave and have their own class with topics such as sibling relationships and safety. The quality of the program is dependent on the teachers (both for the children and adults) so, of course, everyone’s experience will be different. The most relevant and interesting discussions have happened when people share issues with the class. These share sessions usually spark useful discussions, often things you’re experiencing with your own child, and it’s a great time to get feedback/advice from other parents. Regardless of the discussion, there’s adult conversation and a momentary break from children, which is lovely. The class ends with circle time and singing songs. Both of my children love this part of the class.
My E.C.F.E. has a library with books for children and parents. It’s a very easy and convenient way to supplement your children’s books and to pick up parenting books. Throughout the year, there are several activities outside of the weekly class, some are kid-oriented and others are for the parents. We’ve attended quite a few events and have been impressed with the quality of the fun, both for children and parents. My class also does a “make-a-plate” activity where your child paints a picture and it’s put on a plate.
If that’s not enough, here’s why I love E.C.F.E.: children get socialization and learn important skills, parents get a break from their children and useful advice about raising their children, parents meet other parents with children the same age as theirs, and it’s fun to see your child excited to attend class and talking about the fun in the days that follow.