ARCHIVED—Family Bags (and Parent Resource Bags)
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"Some parents face big challenges helping their children prepare for school," says Patricia Hogan of Dartmouth Preschool. "If you have to choose between putting milk on the table or buying books, a loving parent is going to pick the milk every time."
Early childhood educators can easily create resources to help these parents. Hogan and her colleagues put together a set of "family bags" that include toys and books. These bags go home with children for the four days they are not in preschool, leaving on Thursday and coming back on Tuesday.
The contents of each bag are collected from donations and from thrift shops and library sales. "Many of our parents pass on toys and books that their children have outgrown," explains Hogan. "Organizations such as the Kiwanis are eager to support programs for literacy and they will also help."
The actual bags are just simple canvas bags, says Hogan. Often they are bags that are handed out at conferences for participants to collect literature and giveaways in."
Each bag is organized around a theme. One, for example, contains four Winnie-the-Pooh books and a Winnie-the-Pooh toy. "We have bedtime bags with teddy bears, rabbit bags with bunnies, a play dough bag with books and, of course, play dough, along with things like blunt scissors and a garlic press to play with the play dough," says Hogan. The bags are intended to promote family interaction and literacy. They add new bags to the collection every year.
Each bag comes with a list of what is in it and each item is clearly labelled to make things easier for the parents. "We make it clear to the parents that we understand that things will be misplaced and tell them to just send it in when they find it."
Following the success of the family bags, Hogan and her staff started putting together parent resource bags. The bags contain information on various themes, such as literacy, development and behaviour management, discipline, nutrition, health and safety, and crafts. The content of the resource bags is very much parent-driven, says Hogan. "We had a request for information about family law so we put together a bag on that, and another on information about dealing with crises such as divorce and a death in the family, so we have a bag on that, too."