As a working mother of an only child, I have firsthand experience dealing with the challenge of keeping a child happy, entertained, and as far from loneliness as possible without the aid of other siblings. At 3 and a half, my
daughter Naia is highly social, and craving for the attention of children her own age. Unfortunately, “screen-time” ends up taking a big chunk of her day when I’m swamped with work and unable spend the kind of time I prefer with her- playing, reading, making art- all the wonderful, important things that usher in her physical and mental growth.
Before I began attending Diablo Valley College, this was a significant problem for me. I tried springing for expensive day care schooling, which was a positive experience when it came to access to healthful play time and socialization skills, but ultimately was an exercise in policing children for the small ratio of adults working at the centers. I tried two facilities, and both experiences netted me a frantic, sobbing daughter every time I said it was time for me to leave. That was most definitely not the type of situation I was looking for.
It took me two semesters to squeeze Naia in to the Children’s Center Program at DVC, but knowing what I know now, that was a small price to pay to have access to such an encouraging, supportive program. Available to DVC undergraduates, the Early Childhood Education department offers extremely low cost care to children of attending students, averaging around $1.50 per hour for high quality, hands-on, caring education for children from infancy to pre-school age.
Each day in the program, my daughter is exposed to a wide range of early education elements and visceral play. The creativity from the directors is unlike anything I’ve seen- homemade play dough making, magnetic art stations, jungle gym-type exercise set-ups, or water set-ups involving sea animal toys. Often you will even see the real thing- watching tadpoles grow into frogs or watching gardens grow from seeds. Every day there is something new to try, and everything from creative dancing to interactive storytelling keep the children passionate and involved, learning about art, science, and just life in general. Kids learn to interact respectfully with one another and to express their emotions in a healthful, beneficial way, and parents have the remarkable opportunity to watch their children learn and grow in a daycare setting, something many people often don’t get to encounter in the hectic commute from daycare to work and back again.
Part of the reason for the resounding positive impact on the children that attend the program is the adult to child ratio. Since attending parents are required to put in “lab” hours each week playing with the children and learning how best to influence them, and while the Early Childhood Education majors are such a permanent presence along with the administrators, there were actually times when I could count one adult per child in the room, and each adult is constantly involved with them. On average, though, the ratio lingers between 2-6 children per adult in the 2-3 year old area- a far cry from the California state requirement of 12:1 for the same age group.
The Early Childhood Education department at Diablo Valley College has been around for around 30 years, and it is obvious by its unquestionable success just why it continues to be such an integral and lasting part of the DVC
community. Though budget cuts threaten to raise prices in the near future for the program, there are no questions in the mind of this parent that students will continue to witness the amazing accomplishments of their children through the hard work of administrators and students within this caring, tight-knit community.
For more information, see their website at http://www.dvc.edu/org/departments/ece/childrens-center/.