First Light Early Education Program

A Community of Healthy Families

High Quality Care and Education is a Wise Investment

High-Quality Prekindergarten is a Wise Investment-  Early education helps prepare children to succeed in school and in life. Numerous studies show that children enrolled in high-quality early education programs go on to perform better on cognitive tests in elementary and secondary school, are more likely to graduate from high school, go to college, be employed, and be in good health, and are less likely to become involved with crime or turn to welfare. Yet, many children—particularly the low-income children who stand to benefit the most—lack access to early education. Some support for prekindergarten is provided through federal and state programs, but these programs fall short of meeting the need. ;

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Creating a Family Mission Statement

In today’s hectic, complicated world, many families find themselves without a “road map” for helping their kids avoid getting lost.

Might it be wise to sit down as a family and create a type of family mission statement… a set of core values that serves as a road map for behavior?

One parent described her approach:

We talked as a family about what types of values we feel proud to live by. Then we posted them on our refrigerator.

Our family believes in…family_1

–          Treating others the way we want to be treated

–          Honesty

–          Politeness

–          Doing our best even when something is hard or boring

–          Being healthy and safe

Our three year old needed a lot of help with these, but the older kids caught on quickly. We made sure to admit that we, as parents, would be held accountable for living by these values too!

This is a great tool for teaching self-discipline and problem-solving. Now we just say to our kids, “Feel free to do what you would like as long as it fits our family’s values.”

Does your family have a mission statement? If so, share it with us below! If not, I challenge you to sit down with your family this week and begin the process.

This post was adapted from Love and Logic Insider’s Edition with Dr. Charles Fay.

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Nurturing Your Child’s Gift

Child with Toys

Our children all have special areas of gifts and talents in which they can excel. The child who appears to be average takes on a whole new look once parents and caregivers see his or her gifts. This understanding opens a new set of possibilities for each child. Imagine how exciting it would be for your child to find areas in which he or she excels, and imagine how much joy there is in parenting when the purpose is to nurture and to encourage those special traits that your child possesses.

This week, I challenge you to see the gifts your child has and find ways to develop and nurture those gifts.

Here are a few examples to get you started:

  • To encourage leadership, play a few rounds of Follow-the-Leader
  • To encourage creativity, find a spot in the house where you “need” some artwork. Have your child come up with an idea to decorate the area.
  • To encourage humor, make one day each month “silly meal day.” Serve dishes that are different and unusual.
  • To encourage kindness, find ways to help those who are shut-in, have special needs, or are in need of some small favor.

What are some other ways you can nurture your child’s gift?

Source: Wyoming Parent Education Network,

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Pile on the Fall Fun!

I’ve recently come across a calendar produced by Wyoming Quality Counts!, an organization that helps Wyoming parents and child care providers identify and create quality learning experiences for children. They provide a variety of materials to help children develop communication; a sense of self and relationships; curious minds; and strong and healthy bodies. To visit their website, click here.

Parents giving children piggyback rides

The WY Quality Counts! calendar offers a year’s worth of ideas to keep interactions between you and your kids fresh, engaging and positive for everyone. Each month’s activities incorporate a varied menu of developmental skills including cognitive and general knowledge, physical development and motor skills, social and emotional skills, and language and communication.

One of my favorite sections is the “Things to do with your kids now” which lists quick, anytime activities that you can do with your child multiple times each month. For example:

  •  Make a hat out of newspaper
  • Give yourself a pirate name
  • Dress up like a superhero and act out your power
  • Make up a secret family handshake
  • Pretend to be an animal and see if anyone can guess what you are
  • Make up a cheer or fight song
  • Create your own touchdown “boogie”
  • Watch your infant imitate the silly faces
  • Clap to the rhythm of music on the radio
  • Learn to count to 10 in a different language
  • Make a fort
  • Talk to your infant about everything you see while pushing them in a stroller around the block

What are some of your favorite family activities? 

Would you like one of these calendars? Please see Jessica Riley, FRC or go to to order your free copy!

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In Praise of Praising Less

Have you ever wondered why First Light uses encouragement instead of praise?

If you’re like me, you’ve probably used statements like “Good job,” “Way to go,” and “Nice work,” for years. Before I started at First Light, I praised liberally because I believed it was an effective way to help children feel good about themselves and their work. I thought I was helping build self-esteem and positive image.

However, research and experience show encouragement instead of praise will help to bolster children’s self-esteem and self-image.


Many well-intentioned teachers and parents have used praise to improve children’s self-esteem and self-image, but the outcome can be just the opposite.  Alfie Kohn (1999), noted author of Punished by Rewards: The Trouble with Gold Stars, Incentive Plans, A’s, Praise, and Other Bribes, explains the potential damage to children when adults use praise. Children learn to depend on adults for figuring out what is right or wrong, instead of developing this ability themselves.

Rather than rely on their intrinsic motivation to learn, learning or “performing” is done in order to please others. Children lost the interest and ability to work and learn on their own.

By contrast, children who can evaluate their own performance with encouraging feedback from interested adults remain involved. Moreover, they are self-correcting, that is, they can ask questions of themselves and work to solve problems on their own. Learning is inherently satisfying.

Furthermore, “praise” implies judgment. Children know that if you can judge them favorably, you can also judge them unfavorably. Exploring or trying something new might result in “failure” from the adult’s perspective, so children stick with what is safe and has earned them praise before.

How do we move from praise to encouragement?

Our next post will talk about some specific strategies for incorporating more encouragement and less praise.

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Dads Matter

More fathers than ever are experiencing the satisfaction of taking an active role in their children’s lives. Fatherhood is for life, so practice being a “dad” every single day! Here are 3 practical ways you can make a difference in your child’s life now and for a lifetime.

1. Respect your Children’s Mother

One of the best things a father can do for his children is to respect their mother. If you are married, keep your marriage strong. If you are not married, it is still important to respect and support the mother of your children. A father and mother who respect each other provide a secure environment for their children. When children see their parents respecting each other, they are more likely to feel that they are also accepted and respected.

2. Be a Teacher

Too many fathers think teaching is something others do. But a father who teaches his children about right and wrong, and encourages them to do their best, will see his children make good choices. Involved fathers use every day examples to help their children learn basic lessons of life.

3. Read to your Children

Dads have to make a special effort to read to their children in a world where television and video games dominate. Promote reading by reading to your children when they are young. Encourage them to read on their own as they grow. Instill a love of reading in your children and you will help them have a lifetime of personal and career growth.

For more ways to be a committed father ever day, please see Dad’s Pocket Guide: Tips and Tools for Dads of Pre-School and School-Age Children booklet in our Family Resource Library!

We are thankful for First Light fathers who take an active role in their children’s lives. Your involvement in your child’s education will help them do well in school now and in the future.

Who are you grateful for as Father’s Day approaches on Sunday? Tell them.


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Parents Helping Parents of Wyoming State Parenting Center

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A Community of Healthy Families

Preschool Matters... Today!

The official blog of the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) at Rutgers University


A blog by Tim Bartik on early childhood programs and local economic development policies

First Light Early Education Program

A Community of Healthy Families