By: Von Jessee
The Help Me Grow National Center is excited to bring a tested model that promotes optimal child development through age appropriate play to children and families in the Hartford area.
Originally created by Help Me Grow Utah, the Books, Balls, and Blocks model is a fun and educational way to provide developmental screenings to children within the first five years of life. The model provides opportunities for families to engage with their children through a variety of play-based activities that promote child development in areas such as early literacy, fine motor skills, gross motor skills and social skills. It also provides families with the resources they need to monitor their children as they meet developmental milestones and how they can get help if they have questions or concerns.
The LEGO Community Fund U.S. is generously supporting the expansion of this model into the Help Me Grow system in Connecticut. As part of a year-long project, we trained a number of agencies across the Greater Hartford area to host Books, Balls and Blocks events. At our first event, coordinated by the Office of Early Childhood and the Words Count program at the Village for Families & Children in Hartford, children participated in games and activities at different stations while their parents learned how such activities stimulate age-appropriate child development. Parents also had an opportunity to fill out the Ages and Stages Questionnaire, a validated screening tool for tracking child development. In addition, parents received information about Connecticut’s Child Development Infoline (CDI), a toll-free number they can call to ask questions; learn more about age-appropriate development; and connect to community-based services, if needed. They were also able to sign-up for CDI’s developmental screening registry to receive additional Ages and Stages Questionnaires for different ages to track their child’s development as they grow.
It is our hope that this initial replication provides the infrastructure needed to reach a greater number of children and families across Connecticut, as well as encourages replication among other states throughout the Help Me Grow affiliate network.
Von Jessee is a program specialist for network assessment at the Help Me Grow National Center, which is a program of Connecticut Children’s Office for Community Child Health.