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Community input sought for ‘Rural Thinkscapes’

The Best Beginnings Children’s Partnership (BBCP) serving the Flathead Reservation and Lake County is a group of like-minded individuals who believe that the first years of a child’s life are vitally important in determining successful outcomes. We work to ensure that those years are the best that they can be. This involves a lot of sharing of information, some of which has come as a surprise to many of us. For instance:

For children, play is not just fun, it is an important developmental process that promotes learning. Play is exploration, and develops communication, social skills and creativity, which all come in handy throughout our lives.

And for our youngest children, the concept of “serve and return” is also a vital ingredient in healthy development.

According to Harvard University’s Center on the Developing Child, “serve and return interactions shape brain architecture. When an infant or young child babbles, gestures, or cries, and an adult responds appropriately with eye contact, words, or a hug, neural connections are built and strengthened in the child’s brain that support the development of communication and social skills. Much like a lively game of tennis, volleyball, or Ping-Pong, this backand- forth is both fun and capacity-building. When caregivers are sensitive and responsive to a young child’s signals and needs, they provide an environment rich in serve and return experiences.”

Who knew that something as simple as appropriately responding to your young child in a timely manner can make a world of difference in their lives? Another important ingredient in healthy development is a sense of “community.” Research has shown that lasting memories are made by positive adult/child interaction, and this is enhanced by a group setting.

Some innovative people in Philadelphia took all these concepts and created what they call an “Urban Thinkscape” where parents and kids can interact and use their imagination while doing such things as waiting for a bus. A formerly barren corner has become a place where kids can make up stories, play puzzles, walk on stepping stones and find animals in a welded sculpture. You may view this project by visiting: https://www. youtube.com/watch?v=PkXQjkqJBJc

BBCP believes rural communities can imitate “Urban Thinkscape” concepts and apply them to fit the unique needs of our neighborhoods. Imagine transforming barren spaces into a place for kids to develop and learn by playing.

All are welcome to join us on Wednesday, June 13 at 9 a.m. in the Tribal Council Chambers in conjunction with the Project LAUNCH/Child Wellness Council meeting. BBCP will show the video that is referenced above, and discuss ideas for “Rural Thinkscapes” in our communities. Please come and share your thoughts. Let’s use our imaginations, to help our kids develop theirs. Together we can do this. For more information, call 883-7373.

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