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Observed April 6-12, 2024, the annual celebration was first established in 1971 by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) to bring public attention to the needs of young children.

The Children’s Fair at Lazer Zone Family Fun Center provided families a fun and engaging community wide event at no charge April 6. The annual Children’s Fair recognized child abuse prevention and featured games, informational booths, food, entertainment and rides. A car seat safety check was conducted by technicians for parents at the fair. 

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In addition to the Children's Fair, the Chickasaw Nation has more to celebrate for the Week of the Young Child.

“The fun-filled week for children enrolled in our programs consists of a child’s parade, stomp dancing, history and language activities, a petting zoo, ice cream socials, Junior Olympics and many more engaging activities,” Chickasaw Nation Executive Officer of Child Development Michelle Key said.

The Chickasaw Nation hopes to preserve First American culture while also empowering children and families of young children during Week of the Young Child.

“The week is focused on each child and providing them with meaningful and impactful opportunities,” Key said.

Furthermore, children are celebrated year-round through Chickasaw Nation childhood programs and services designed to meet the needs of young children.

Chickasaw Nation Child Development Centers provide care for children birth to 4 years of age. The centers provide a positive and nurturing environment to children and are led by highly trained teachers and staff.

“The early years of life are crucial for setting healthy foundations in a child’s life,” Key said. “Many milestones are accomplished at such an early age, and our goal is for every child to leave our development center prepared for public school.”

The Chickasaw Nation Preschool and Head Start program is another great educational resource for children 3 to 4 years of age.

“It is a family-focused program designed to address children’s needs in all areas of development: physical, social, emotional and cognitive,” Key said.

The Chickasaw Nation Hofanti Chokma program, meaning “to grow well,” collaborates with child-serving programs to promote positive childhood development. The program hosts workshops intended to help children and teens grow and manage their own behaviors for future success. The workshops use fun, evidence-based strategies to endorse a positive mindset and healthy relationships.

“The child development center collaborates with the Hofanti Chokma program to offer our children and families a variety of positive opportunities to strengthen the parent/child interaction,” Key said. “There are many parent engagement trainings offered such as PAX Tools, Good Behavior Game, NEAR training and other parent/child related trainings.”

Hofanti Chokma also provides parent meetings focused on development milestones of children at specific ages, learning emotions and how to self-regulate as a child and as a parent.

“The social emotional aspect of the growing child is such a huge part of learning how to become a successful adult,” Key said.

Reading materials are also available to Chickasaw children under the age of 5 at no charge. The Chickasaw reading program provides a monthly delivery of books to Chickasaw children.

“The books are to encourage reading and parent-child engagement at home,” Key said.

Special education services are provided through the Chickasaw Nation, offering consultation to families of special needs children about their Individualized Education Plan (IEP) and/or Section 504 plans in public school. The program also helps families who may have a child with one or more disabilities without an IEP or 504 plan.

“The program provides certified special education professionals to support children, parents and teachers in the classroom environment,” Key said. “The goal is for parents to have a clear understanding of the child’s learning needs, strengths and challenges, and assist with empowering the child to thrive in the classroom.”

Among many Chickasaw Nation nutrition initiatives is Packed Promise, a childhood health and development nutrition program.

“Packed Promise is a nutrition service that offers shelf-stable meal deliveries to provide food for Chickasaw children,” Key said. “The program provides a 25-pound box of foods that is shipped directly to the doorsteps of each eligible child in the home along with additional services.”

Families approved for the program receive a food kit for each child in the household every month. Deliveries can be provided within the Chickasaw Nation and other counties adjacent to the Chickasaw Nation boundaries.

The Chickasaw Nation also hopes to support mildly ill children through the Sick Child Care program.

The Sick Child Care program provides a safe environment for mildly ill children to rest and recuperate. The program accepts children 3 months to 12 years of age. Examples of minor illnesses include upper respiratory illnesses, gastrointestinal disorders and other mildly contagious illnesses.

“The program has a nurse and LPN on-site along with child care teachers to provide the utmost care of children with mild illnesses,” Key said.

The Chickasaw Nation Child Care Assistance program provides financial assistance for child care to eligible First American families.

“Parents have the option to choose a child care provider that best fits their child’s needs,” Key said.

The program permits parents to choose from a broad range of child care providers, including tribal child care centers, licensed centers, licensed family homes and relative providers.

“There are countless opportunities provided for our children and families,” Key said.

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