TIPS: Local Community Resources

Children begin exploring the world from the moment they are born. As they grow, their world expands from the family and home they live in, to the community that surrounds them. A great way to help children connect and explore their world is to check out some of the local community resources Maryland has to offer! Here are a few ideas:

Farmers Markets

Fall weather in Maryland is right around the corner, but the bounty of fresh, delicious, local produce continues. Farmers markets run throughout the state until mid-November. Find out here if there is one close to you.

Local produce can teach children what is in season and the value of wholesome, healthy food. Use the market to purchase local foods or plan a field trip with the children!

In addition to community farmers markets, participants in Women, Infants and Children (WIC) can also use their vouchers at any authorized farmers markets in the state. Anyone who uses WIC can check to see if there are farmers markets nearby, or if local farmers have on-farm stands at the Farmers Market Nutrition Program.

The WIC Farmers Market Nutrition Program (FMNP) provides coupons for fresh, unprepared, local foods to individuals who receive WIC program benefits. Check the FMNP website to see if you are eligible for this benefit.

Music and Arts Festivals
Enjoy the sounds and sights of enriching music and arts events! Art and music provide wonderful visual and auditory experiences for children.

Find out about your local music and arts festivals through Maryland’s Office of Tourism.

Children playing outside

Nature Center and Parks
Explore the science of life and nature by taking your children to a local park or nature center. Naturalists and park staff can provide a wealth of knowledge on plants and animals, and introduce children to the local ecosystem.

Check out some of the local parks and nature centers near you:

The Importance of Reading

By Theresa Lutz, Program Coordinator, Maryland EXCELS

Siblings leaving breadcrumbs in the forest, a running gingerbread cookie, a hen baking bread, a plate of green breakfast food, a bear family and a spooky tree…these are all fond memories of my childhood reading. What are your memories? Do you have warm thoughts of reading when you were a child? If you do not have memories of reading, don’t you want to be the one that gives those memories to the children in your care? Whatever our memories are, it is our job as parents or as program providers to give the children in our lives the joy of reading.

Not only is reading pleasurable, but it also necessary. We read in our daily lives. Reading is inevitable. We read cookbooks, the Internet, magazines, road-signs, and directions. Reading books with children, as early as infancy, will help develop necessary skills, such as building vocabulary and stimulating language development, not to mention strengthening your relationships with the children in your care.  Having children in your care read twice a day is important to his/her cognitive, social, and emotional development.

How can you find time to read twice a day in your program? First, you can reduce or cut out television viewing and replace it with reading. And remember, you do not always have to be the leader. Children need opportunities to experience books on their own. While you are cleaning up snack or lunch, children can have time to explore the books on your bookshelves. Babies will mouth the corners of your board books; preschoolers may tell the story looking at the illustrations; and kindergarteners may be using a combination of pictures and words. After rest time, you can gather and read a story aloud. Make sure you are rotating the books on your shelf. Children will get bored easily if your books are always the same.

Having a variety of books at your fingertips is a must in order to keep your children motivated. Your books should be a mixture of fiction and non-fiction.  They should also appeal to boys and girls alike. Purchasing books can become expensive. Visit community yard sales and your neighborhood thrift store. Access your libraries website, too. See if they offer a drive-up window or a book mobile.

Make sure reading is a priority in your home or child care program, and the children in your care will develop a life-long love of reading.