By Sadé Collins, Programs Fellow

We recognize that during this unprecedented time, early care and education providers are making adjustments to meet the demand of local COVID-19 response efforts. That may mean limiting the number of children sites serve, changing activities to adhere to safety and social distancing guidelines, or halting business altogether, but providing families with tools and resources to support young children at home. With this in mind, National Farm to School Network (NFSN) is committed to supporting you and providing resources to help you think of ways to stay engaged. In our Week of the Young Child celebration recommendations, we’ve identified activities that are appropriate for safety and social distance measures during this time (SD Friendly) and also activities that work well to support families with resources or education activities (Family Friendly).

The Week of the Young Child™ (April 11-17, 2020) is an annual celebration sponsored by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). The purpose of the Week of the Young Child™ (WOYC) is to focus public attention on the needs of young children and their families and to recognize the early childhood programs and services that meet those needs. National Farm to School Network is excited for another fun-filled week celebrating young children and their families! See below opportunities for farms to ECE activities during WOYC that support ECE providers in creating learning environments that align with NAEYC Program Standards and can be social distancing (SD) and family friendly.

Kick-Off Saturday: Host a collaborative kick-off.  Share ideas and prepare for a week of celebration.

  • Establish your site as an access point for families to purchase and learn about healthy, local foods by becoming a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)/food box pick-up site. (Family Friendly)
  • Join an on-line learning and discussion community to share ideas and find support from others in the ECE community. (SD Friendly)
  • Replenish your arts and crafts supply for Artsy Thursday. (SD and Family Friendly)

Music Monday: Turn gardening into a routine.

  • Turn on the music and start every garden time with a musical warm up. Simple garden activities can be set up as an obstacle course using old plant pots and then have students weave in and out of the pots. (SD and Family Friendly)
  • Encourage children to engage in “seed yoga” to music. Invite children to curl into a ball to pretend to be a seed, then guide them through movements of unfurling and stretching along with the rhythm as they “grow roots,” “send out leaves,” and “grow flowers and fruit”.  (SD and Family Friendly)

Tasty Tuesday:  Conduct a taste testing activity to allow children to try new or unfamiliar food.

  • Set up taste tests of local ingredients and food from the garden or local grocer and try a new recipe at home. (Family Friendly)
  • Create a recipe book using images the children draw and share the book with family. (SD and Family Friendly)

Work Together Wednesday: Build together, celebrate together.*

  • Engage in self-initiated sensory table play with a variety of kitchen tools (e.g., measuring cups and spoons, colanders, sifters). Be sure to sanitize tools. (SD and Family Friendly)
  • Create a space for tiny helpers to make cooking with toddlers easy and fun. (Family Friendly)
  • Children can work together in small groups with sanitized tools and help with starting a vegetable garden. (SD and Family Friendly)

Artsy Thursday: Grow green thumbs with simple gardening crafts.

  • Children can draw pictures about their time in the garden or a farm field trip and create class books about their experiences. (SD and Family Friendly)  
  • Provide clothing, props, and puppets that allow children to transform themselves into roles such as farmers, gardeners, and grocers. (Family Friendly)
  • Create handmade books to document stages of plant growth, areas of the garden during different times. (SD and Family Friendly)

Family Friday: Promote and enhance family and parent engagement.

  • Send recipes home (via email) to engage families; highlight a seasonal fruit or vegetable. (SD and Family Friendly)
  • Consider hosting a virtual event where parents can learn about how to cook or prepare food with children at home by using local produce. (SD and Family Friendly)
  • Invite parents and family members to share their experience and expertise in farming, gardening, cooking, and other food and agriculture related activities via a newsletter. (SD Friendly)

While farm to ECE initiatives are an impactful approach for programs and educators, local-level and state-level farm to ECE initiatives can also support policy, system and environmental change. Building opportunities for farm to ECE initiatives can align with NAEYC state affiliate strategic plans and goals. Read more about how partner states are leveraging farm to ECE in our 2019 WOYC blog.

Now more than ever, we hope that we can all take this important week to recognize and celebrate the important role that ECE, particularly ECE providers, take in our community and find new and innovative ways to support young children and their families. You can find more resources to celebrate Week of the Young Child from NAEYC and can find more ways to grow farm to early care and education from the National Farm to School Network.

*Per CDC guidelines, “Do not share toys with other groups of infants or toddlers, unless they are washed and sanitized before being moved from one group to the other.”