When Frankie Littlebear and her husband, Danny, discovered Parents as Teachers, a home visitation program funded by the First Things First Southeast Maricopa Region, they were curious about how the program would benefit their 2-year-old daughter, Ariya.
Littlebear thought it might help give their daughter a jumpstart on reaching milestones. She quickly found that not only was Ariya learning, but she also gained valuable lessons on how to teach her daughter.
Parents as Teachers provides voluntary coaching and in-home support for families. For Littlebear, that meant a parent educator visited her home in Mesa twice a month. During each visit, the parent coach provided parenting information, teaching strategies and connections to other community resources.
“As a parent, you wonder if you have the proper tools to teach your child,” Littlebear said. “Now with the help of our parent educator, I’ve learned many different approaches so that my husband and I can help Ariya with life skills and prepare her for kindergarten.”
Littlebear’s coach provided her with lessons to make learning fun, like placing shape cutouts on the floor and hopping from shape to shape, matching up colors, making buildings out of blocks, even learning different textures and sizes by playing with different balls. The parent educator showed Littlebear ways to incorporate teaching with everyday items as simple as pipe cleaners and straws.
“When our parent educator visits, Ariya lights up with excitement waiting for her to pull the next activity out of her bag,” Littlebear said. “She brings paints, blocks, instruments, tea sets, magnets and our daughter’s favorite: books!”
When the family first started the program, Ariya was quiet and shy. She even hid behind her parents. As the Littlebears participated in the program, they watched Ariya develop rapidly. In a short amount of time, Ariya, now 4, became outgoing. Today, she confidently introduces herself to other children when playing at the park.
“I’m so proud of Ariya. I love learning how to teach her,” Littlebear said. “Our parent educator has given both of us confidence.”
Littlebear attributes much of Ariya’s success to the foundation established from the home visits with Parents as Teachers. And now, Ariya’s 9-month-old sister, Amiya, is benefitting, too.
“The connection between parent and child at this stage is so valuable and precious,” Littlebear said. “They remember all you do for them, and having a helping hand in my daughter’s learning process is a huge plus.”