'Love, Talk, Play' stresses value of early learning

By Marissa Harshman, Columbian health reporter

Published:

 

Love came in the form of snuggles, hugs and kisses.

Talk was actually singing and cooing.

And play included egg-shaped shakers and colorful scarves.

Mommies and infants, daddies and toddlers explored the "Love, Talk, Play" concept Thursday morning during 30-minute sessions full of songs, stories and silliness.

While the session was lighthearted, it sent a strong message about the importance of early learning and child development, said Debbie Ham, executive director of SELF (Support for Early Learning & Families).

"It's not about having fancy, expensive things," she said. "It's about those interactive experiences that promote learning."

SELF, a collaboration of Southwest Washington organizations striving to prepare young kids for school, and Clark County Public Health teamed up to offer the "Love, Talk, Play" sessions at the Center for Community Health. SELF has held about half a dozen other learning events this year and is applying for grant funding to continue the efforts next year, Ham said.

The objective of the "Love, Talk, Play" program is to simplify the concepts of brain, motor and language development, said Janalee Ensley, SELF program and partner coordinator.

Parents may be unsure about what they can do to promote healthy development. "Love, Talk, Play" is designed to show parents that simple activities relating to those three words can do the trick, Ensley said.

"It brings it down to a simpler level," she said.

Love — in the form of hugging, cuddling and touching — promotes emotional growth, self-esteem and confidence, all of which lay the groundwork for the child's future relationships, Ensley said.

Talking, singing and reading are the early stages of literacy and set the tone for future learning, she said. And playing is how kids learn and explore the things around them, Ensley said.

Those skills are all critical for future success, Ham said.

In Clark County, between 30 and 50 percent of kindergartners (it varies depending on the

school) begin school without the skills they need, Ham said. They can identify letters and know their names, but they don't know how to listen or manage their behaviors. They aren't prepared to learn, she said.

"It's really important that we lay that early foundation," Ham said.

Clark County Commissioner Steve Stuart, his wife, Heather, and their 7-month-old son, Obadiah, attended Thursday's "Love, Talk, Play" events with more than a dozen other local families. Obadiah cooed and squealed as he played with shakers and watched a bright pink scarf swirl in the air. He laughed as Heather's fingers tickled his leg during the "Itsy Bitsy Spider."

The stories, songs and playtime are all learning opportunities for Obadiah, Stuart said.

"I see it in my own home," he said, "the importance of spending interactive time with him and the difference it makes in his growth."

Marissa Harshman: 360-735-4546; http://twitter.com/col_health;http://facebook.com/reporterharshman;marissa.harshman@columbian.com.