Imagine having a group of parenting experts in your back yard - researchers who are constantly conducting projects that keep them on the cutting-edge of child development. And they are eager to share their expertise, for free.
Parents in the greater Merced area don't have to imagine that. This invaluable resource is theirs through the UC Merced Child and Family Development Group .
These researchers take part in numerous events to engage with the community and provide parents with tools to help navigate all phases of childhood, from birth onward.
At a recent Parent Academy at the Kids Discovery Station, Professor Eric Walle talked with parents about the vital importance of play in the development of very young children.
In fact, it was mainly through play and experimentation that people learned for millennia, before schools existed.
"We're doing a weird thing by sitting here and taking notes," he said. "When you are playing you are not doing nothing. You're learning, discovering, exploring."
As the Week of the Young Child approaches - it's celebrated in the first week of April each year - here is a look at some of the upcoming events parents and anyone interested can access, all at no cost:
April 1 - Week of the Young Child event at Applegate Park. The group will set up a table to hand out information, provide puzzles and books to children and provide an activity for children to play (last year children used clay to make neurons).
April 13 - Parent Academy at Kids Discovery Station. Professor Alexandra Main will discuss parent-adolescent communication: What works and what doesn't? The session will cover the major biological, cognitive and social changes happening during adolescence and how parents can facilitate better communication.
May 4 - Merced Mercado. The group will hand out information, provide puzzles and books to children and provide an activity for children.
May 18 - Parent Academy at Kids Discovery Station. Professor Elif Isbell 's program is "Attention Please!" Isbell will discuss how children's attention develops from preschool through early elementary school years. The session will include hands-on activities about brain and attention development and a discussion of how parents can support children's attention development at home.
June 22 - Parent Academy at Kids Discovery Station. Professor Rose Scott will discuss myths about early bilingualism. Does hearing multiple languages affect children's learning? This session will go over ways to support language skills in children learning multiple languages.
This is just a snapshot of what UC Merced child development researchers do to help parents and children locally. Other programs include working with the Merced County Office of Education (MCOE) and the Department of Public Health for home interventions for children with special healthcare needs, and the Merced Kids Discovery Station, a hands-on museum located across from Merced College on Yosemite Avenue. They also took part in the MCOE Science Fair and regularly set up a table at the weekly Merced Farmers Market.
"We are actively seeking partnerships to share our knowledge about child and family development with those in the community," Walle said.
More information is available on the group's website.