A program in Kittitas County helps children age 5 and under get a head start on education through activities and tools that help them practice developmental skills.

According to Kittitas County Early Learning Coalition event coordinator Melissa Gillaspy the program is designed for pre-school aged “kiddos,” and provides them and their parents with activates and tools that can be used at home to get a jump on their education.

Jessica Orndorff was at the event with her 19-month-old son Oliver. This was the Orndorff’s first time at this event, as they had just moved to Ellensburg from Edmonds. She said that they came to the event so they could meet people in Ellensburg and get familiar with the community. She also wants to find different activates that can be done at home.

Gillaspy said that the activates provided focus on practicing basic fundamentals such as handwriting practice. Part of the way that early learning structures the event is through science, technology, reading/writing, engineering, art and math. This structure process is referred to as S.T.R.E.A.M.

There is also motor skills practice, the kind of practice that will increase hand strength so that children are prepared to be working with their hands for long periods of time.

The event provides families with tools that can strengthen a child’s learning ability.

“We are trying to put tools into parent’s hands,” Gillaspy said. The idea is that parents can take these tools home to help strengthen their kid’s first educational years.”

Michelle Anderson was there with her three kids, Noah 5, Elise, 3, and Marie, 5 months. Anderson said that she has been going to these programs for about three years, and that they have always been fantastic.

“It’s super educational and hands on. The kids love it,” Anderson said. “There is not a whole lot to do in this town with kids, so it is nice that they do it every month. I also love that we get to leave with a book and usually some sort of education toy or activity they can do at home.”

Anderson said that when she first started taking her kids to Early Learning, she had to follow them everywhere and show them what to do. Now, her kids are familiar enough with the event that they can figure out the activities on their own.

Another resource provided by the program is developmental screening that makes parents aware of the level of mental development that their child is at. According to Karry McMurry, who is in charge of developmental screening with the Early Learning Coalition, the service focuses on early identification of developmental concerns in children age 5 and under.

“The whole idea is to catch kids early, under the age of 5, preferably in the 0 to 3-year age range when the majority of brain development occurs,” McMurry said. “Early prevention is key to minimize the need for services in the future.”

The Kittitas County Early Learning Coalition two events each month, one in Ellensburg and the other in Kittitas.

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