The NMSU Early Years Institute offers fun and culturally relevant activities for toddlers


LAS CRUCES, New Mexico (KTSM) – The NMSU Early Years Institute planned one of its first projects early last year, offering culturally relevant activities for children. Although the COVID-19 pandemic began in March 2020, the organization’s efforts have persisted.

The brand new Glass Family Research Institute for Early Childhood Studies at New Mexico State University is made up of a postdoctoral researcher at the College of Health, Education and Social Transformation, Wenjie Wang. The organization also consists of two master teachers, Christina Morales and Lizette Monge, who focus on creating activities for families with toddlers, and two student assistants, Luiza Manuel and Emmarie Heredia, of the programs of training of NMSU teachers.

The institute had some difficulty finding participants who would be willing to contribute to the project soon after the outbreak of COVID-19.

However, thanks to the team’s strong collaborative efforts, they were able to quickly pivot the project to include partnerships with local community agencies and reach families via social media.

Today, the institute’s “Family and Friends” project, funded by the Brindle Foundation, attracts dozens of families throughout Doña Ana County who receive activity kits that encourage cultural engagement. The project is expected to end in early December, but could potentially be extended until early next year.

The Family and Friends Project team at the Glass Family Research Institute for Early Childhood Studies at New Mexico State University participated in the Sunland Park City National Night in August. During the event, the team organized an activity focused on cultural relevance for the children in attendance. (Courtesy photo)

Wang said the institute team plans to collect information on whether families feel their toddlers’ knowledge has increased after participating in the activities and whether their cultural understanding has deepened overall. .

“We try to focus on different areas of toddler development and provide families with songs and stories focused on science or sensory development, and incorporate those elements that connect them to different cultures,” said Monge.

Morales added, “Most of the activities focus on toddlers, but some can be more difficult depending on their level. We’ve had food, sun catchers, activities inspired by recent vacations, but we always brought it back to their culture and how the activity can relate to culture. For example, we had a science experiment that involved pepper and soap, and the activity asked what spices are used in their cultivation. “

Wang said the activities help raise awareness of diversity and community knowledge, while promoting the development of learning in children.

“We are trying to include very important issues and get parents to have these conversations with their children,” Wang said. “Cultural engagement is important, especially during COVID, to update our understanding of what is culturally relevant. “

To distribute the activities, the team collaborated with the Kids Can Boom Box program, relied on community events like the Hatch Literacy Fair and the City of Sunland Park’s National Night Out event, and is associated with organizations such as Ngage New Mexico, Community Action Agency of Southern New Mexico, Jardin de los Niños, La Clinica De Familia and Tresco. They also used Instagram, Facebook and Twitter to spread the word.

“We had a good response on Facebook and Instagram, and we received more phone calls from the daycare brochures we handed out,” said Manuel, one of the two student assistants at the children’s institute. NMSU.

Feedback from families also shaped the types of activities the team offered, such as creating leaflets and instructions in English and Spanish, NMSU officials said.

“We’ve finally reached the point where we reach 300 families, and that’s with only five members of our team,” Wang said. “I am so happy and so proud of our team for what we have been able to accomplish. “

For more information on the Family & Friends Project, email [email protected] The project can also be reached on Twitter at @AggiesTiny, Instagram at @tiny_aggies and Facebook under “Tiny Aggies”.

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