Website available to assist with early childhood learning

The youth of our community are our most valuable resource. From birth to age five, the first years of their lives are the most critical for learning.

“Ninety percent of a child’s brain develops in the first five years of life, which is why it is so vital to introduce reading to children at an early age. Reading books aloud to a child can help stimulate their imagination and expand their understanding of the world around them,” stated Terra Johnson, the Manager for Community Programs of the South Dakota Early Childhood Enrichment (ECE) System.

On February 2, the South Dakota Early Childhood Enrichment unveiled a new website with access to early childhood resources. Those resources include training, education, and technical assistance in early childhood development. 

The website can be found at

“Early childhood and youth development professionals make a difference every day in the lives of the children and the youth that they care for. Having high-quality early childhood programs and services results in the positive development of children and youth, and a stronger social, educational, and economic future for our state,” stated Department of Social Services (DSS) Cabinet Secretary Laurie Gill.

The DSS collaborates with the Early Childhood Enrichment System to meet the growing demand for early childhood and school-aged training and help recruit and retain quality children providers. The Early Childhood Enrichment System works closely with the DSS Office of Licensing and Accreditation to identify trends in the child care industry and partners to create potential solutions. It also collaborates with other community partners regarding child care issues in South Dakota and trends impacting families and children.

“Specialized knowledge of how children develop and learn is critical for those who work in early care and education and that is where the South Dakota Early Childhood Enrichment System really shines,” said Gill.

Early childhood educators typically care for children in the following age groups within the field: Infants (birth to 16 months), Toddlers (16 months to 24 months), Early Preschool (24-36 months), Preschool (ages 3-4), and Pre-Kindergarten (ages 4-5). Educators may care for children in center-based, family child care, or out-of-school time programs. 

“Each age group possesses certain traits in order to strive for success within that age group: Passion for teaching, love for young children, caring and compassion, empathy, and patience are just a few of the qualities that go into a successful early childhood educator. We believe that every child in South Dakota deserves safe and responsive care. Every adult who impacts children should have the necessary resources, training, and support to provide exceptional care in enriching environments. The goal for this website is to increase access and awareness of these resources by locating them into one centralized location,” said Johnson.

On the website, both parents and professionals may find a variety of training opportunities. Many training classes are free of charge, and others are available for a $5 fee. The ECEs also provide individualized technical assistance and coaching services at no cost to child care providers. The ECE system offers free relationship-based coaching, including on-site consultations for licensed and registered programs to work toward making quality improvements to their child care programs, promoting optimal development for children in their care. 

“Parents can also access resources and support through the website, for example, what to look for in a daycare, how to connect with the Helpline Center to find openings in your area, as well as parenting classes. Various services are also available to parents and caregivers in order to enhance the development, health, and safety of children. The services are aimed at empowering families who directly affect the lives of children,” said Johnson.

By Amy Buster

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