On Wednesday, we celebrated as 13 mothers and their babies graduated from the Early Stimulation program. This program teaches mothers of children ages 0 to 2 years techniques to stimulate their children’s development of language, motor skills, cognitive perceptions, and social abilities. Some of these techniques include: massaging their baby’s hands and feet, reading and singing to their babies, looking them in the eye while breast feeding, teaching mothers how to safely turn their babies over, and teaching the children how to go up and down stairs. Above all, these techniques work to consciously strengthen the affective bonds between parent and child. The program consists of 12 sessions over a 6-month period.  During this time, mothers form bonds with their children, but also with each other. Several of the mothers commented on how they and their babies became friends with the others participating in the program.

Why Early Stimulation matters

This program is important because many parents are unaware of ways they can stimulate their child’s development, and some traditional practices can impede it—such as keeping children tightly swaddled with little opportunity for movement when they are small. So while teaching parents how to turn babies over, they are also nudging the parents toward letting the child have greater movement and stimulating the child to initiate movement.

Teaching mothers these different stimulation techniques like reading and singing to their babies is especially important in order for children to develop the language skills they will need when entering preschool. One of the program facilitators mentioned that 90% of the mothers in this session said they had never sung to their babies before the program, and many believed there was little value in talking to their children since they weren’t able to talk back.

Johana Hernandez, mother of 6, and her son Pablo

Two mothers share their experiences  

Johana Hernandez and her son Pablo were one of the families who graduated on Wednesday.

Johana is an experienced mother, having raised six children already, but said this course taught her things she could do for her children that she wasn’t aware of.

As part of the graduation program, she and other mothers competed to see how many stimulation techniques they could name in 30 seconds.  Johana named 12, which tied her for a second place.

Another mother, Zulma Melgar, said the program is already making a notable difference in her 16 month old son, Wilson.  They live with their extended family, and Wilson’s grandfather comments on how much more Wilson can do than his cousin who’s about the same age.  Wilson likes to turn the tv on and off, climb up and down stairs (something they worked on in the program), and no longer wears a diaper in the house.  When he needs to go to the bathroom, he tells his mother “now.”

Looking forward

The Early Stimulation program is just one part of a larger picture for these 13 mothers and our families with young children. Once their child is 2 years old, they can participate in our Early Reading program, which will further prepare them to be successful in preschool, first grade, and beyond.

As graduation concluded, you couldn’t help but look into the eyes of these mothers and their babies and wonder how much they will accomplish in the years to come.

If you would like to support these critical programs, please click here to give a gift. Thank you for supporting families like Johana’s and Zulma’s. You are truly helping us make a difference!