Let's Start: Little Ones

 
During a child’s early years the brain grows rapidly. The development of strong relationship with parents during this period is an important protective factor for children as they grow up.
 

 Let’s Start Little Ones is a parent-child program that aims to strengthen these key relationships in a child’s life. A program manual has been developed specifically for working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families. Over the last six     months of 2014, it has been piloted in three remote communities: Pirlangimpi, Peppimenarti and Nganmarriyanga (Palumpa). The program of one two-hour session each a week for seven weeks follows a structured group format and is designed for children aged up  to four years of age and their parents. 

 The first hour of the program is an interactive session where parents are encouraged to play with their child in a supportive environment. This session develops parent’s skills around play, and positive communication, and enables them to foster their child’s social and emotional development. Through these  sessions, the child has opportunities to build the skills they need to relate with their family and community, and to be better prepared for crèche and preschool. 

The second hour of the program is devoted to a parent group, where parents discuss parenting skills and challenges, and problem-solve within the group.

While these discussions are based on the program manual content for a particular week, the program has the flexibility to respond to the direction of the group and focus on any pressing issues that emerge. During this ‘parent time’ the children are looked after separately to minimise interruptions to the parent group.

 The pilot program has seen over 20 parents and family members and 25 children attend the programs. The feedback has been positive with parents reporting that “I loved playing with the kids”, “I liked learning and talking to the other parents about kids”, and “I’m really gonna miss it”. Community stakeholders agreed that the program was empowering for the local women, and provided much-needed employment opportunities in the community. The preschool teacher at Nganmarriyanga was delighted that children, who missed out on preschool because it was operating at full capacity, were able to participate in the program.

 We anticipate that Let’s Start Little Ones will complement the successful Let’s Start ‘Four to Sevens’ program, with children and parents transitioning into the latter program with more confidence. We hope that community and government support will see Let’s Start Little Ones continue to be delivered across the Top End.