Alejandra Koran was a first-time mother and unsure of how to bond with her baby. Joshua was only a few months old when his mother first heard about parenting workshops being offered at the Dr. Fernando Escalante Tribal Library on the Pascua Yaqui Tribe reservation in Tucson.
The First Things First Pascua Yaqui Tribe Regional Partnership Council funds the workshops to help families learn more about the importance of early childhood development and how they are their child’s first and best teacher. FTF provides support at no charge to families with children birth to age 5 in early childhood development, education, health and obtaining other services.
Koran and her son began attending the family workshops once a week, which includes story time, followed by play time for an hour. Children explore and make sense of the world around them through play. Research has shown that play impacts everything from physical abilities and vocabulary to problem solving, creativity, teamwork and empathy.
One of the biggest takeaways for Koran was learning to interact with her son while he played. For example, mom and son would practice matching shapes and colors in order to improve Joshua’s cognitive functions.
“At first he didn’t know what to do with the item in front of him, and he would get upset because he didn’t understand,” Koran said. “It seems so silly when I think about it now. Of course you need to teach a baby how to play. I used to think that Joshua would figure out how to use whatever was in front of him on his own.”
Additionally, Koran felt comforted to learn that she didn’t need to invest in expensive toys in order to interest her son.
“To be honest, Joshua could have an expensive toy right next to him, but he’ll always gravitate to the cardboard box in the corner of the room,” she said. “It’s great to know that you can make any moment a learning opportunity.”
The cognitive learning eventually led to Joshua learning to self-play. “I realized how much knowledge Joshua’s brain was absorbing,” Koran said.
Now at 18 months old, Joshua excels at matching shapes and colors together, while also showing more curiosity in his surroundings.
Koran now views playtime for what it is, “a fun, learning time,” and not a stress-inducing activity.
“Doing these activities with him, is actually really fun for me, too. I love watching him learn and realize new things,” she said.