The fields of child development and education have faced significant challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic over the past two years.
With that in mind, members of the Laguna Beach Early Learning Community Task Force say they are excited about a local program that offers families with young children an opportunity to develop intellectually and in social-emotional areas for free.
Passport to Learning, a program in its fourth year, takes place Saturday with in-person return activities. The event is geared toward families with children ages 5 and under and is held from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. on the Laguna Beach Community Terrace and Susi Q Center at 380 3rd Street.
Registration will be done on site the day of the event using a QR code.
“We are very pleased to once again offer this in-person event,” Irene White, director of special education for the Laguna Beach Unified School District, said in a statement. “Parents and their children will have a great time participating in many hands-on activities provided by a team of professionals. Parents will also receive information on activities that promote kindergarten readiness.
Sandee Bandettini, early learning program specialist for the district, said Passport for Learning was supposed to be canceled in 2020, then the event went virtual in 2021. With her return in person, Bandettini said she thinks that there was a lot to be gained from an experiential point of view.
“What’s so interesting is that those first five years are so critical in a child’s development, and during the pandemic a lot of these little guys haven’t had those early learning experiences that kids usually have,” Bandettini said in a phone interview on Friday. “Some did, but not many children. It is more important than ever to inform parents that it is not too late.
“A lot of parents will come up to me, and they’ll be like, ‘Oh gosh, Sandee. It’s March, and I’m just learning these things,’ and I’m like, ‘Yeah, but you have March through August. You have plenty of time for areas where you need extra support to learn, grow and develop.
Passport to Learning takes children and their parents on a great adventure. Upon arrival, families receive a travel guide and adventure map to help them maneuver through the various stations with creative names such as “Storybook Express” for family literacy and “Baggage Claim” for support socio-emotional. “National Parks” encourages outdoor activities to develop gross motor skills, such as body awareness.
There will be early learning experts ready to pass on their knowledge, including speech therapists, as well as professionals who focus on child development and parent education.
“We meet three or four times a year,” Bandettini said of the Laguna Beach Early Learning Community Task Force. “We are talking about developing programs to support families with children [ages] 0-5, and what’s unique [Passport to Learning] is at each of the learning stations, you’re going to have a different expert in a specific area, so it’s a really wonderful way to bridge support for those families.
Representatives from Lakeshore Learning, the Priority Center School Readiness Program, and the Laguna Beach Public Library will also be at the event, where kids can win prizes as they complete the course. .
“Kids love this event,” Cherie Francis Boegeman, occupational therapist, said in a press release for the event. “They have fun while the parents learn. The event resembles a carnival in the park. As children explore different activities and play, parents learn about developmental milestones and strategies to support their child’s success. Historically, families don’t want to leave after the event is over.
Support our coverage by becoming a digital subscriber.