Jennifer Quiñonez’s son was just a few months old, but the first-time mother felt it would benefit his development to start socializing with other children his age.
“There were no other children in my house, so I wanted to find a place where he could be around other children,” the Nogales resident said.
A friend told her about the Rio Rico Family Resource Center, which helps families with children up to 5 years old to prepare for kindergarten through free classes, activities and social events.
The First Things First Santa Cruz Regional Council funds family resource centers in the region to provide families with the information, services and support they need to help their children achieve their fullest potential.
The resource center turned out to be a place that offered much more than what Quiñonez expected. Not only could her baby engage in child’s play with other children, but she also could pick up valuable parenting tips to support his healthy development.
Her son, Gilberto, was 4 months old when the two started visiting the center.
“We played, he shared with other children, he saw other children his age,” she said. “It was a very nice experience.”
The visits became routine and as Gilberto got older, he engaged in various age-appropriate activities, his mother said. When her twins, Jorge and Julian were born, Quiñonez said, the resource center became like a second home for the growing family.
Quiñonez said she was learning along with her boys. Realizing that the time between birth and age 5 is a critical period for brain development and its long-lasting impact on children was a key factor in her decision to keep her children enrolled at the center. She also liked that she could take parenting classes in her native Spanish and connect with other mothers of young children.
Over the years, Quiñonez said she noticed changes in her firstborn son. It took time, but his initial shyness gradually gave way to a more outgoing personality. “Now I can say that he is a child who is more open, he is more social, he tells me what he feels and what he thinks,” she said.
Gilberto is now 5 years old and this is his last year attending the resource center. He will be entering kindergarten in the fall and his mother has no doubt he is well prepared to start his school education.
Twins Julian and Jorge, who are 3 years old, will continue to attend the resource center until they start kindergarten, their mother said.
“I think that taking them from such a young age has also been a great help, because now I see that they speak very well and they understand the stories I read to them very well. And they get really excited when we go to the center.”