Child care providers join for camaraderie, training at 19th annual ‘Early Childhood Conference’

Attendees at the 19th annual Southern Utah Early Childhood Conference, St. George, Utah, date not specified | Photo courtesy of Five County Association of Governments, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — With a focus on ways to improve care for babies and help children be successful, members of the early-childcare community gathered for a yearly training conference Friday and Saturday at Dixie State University.

Attendees at the 19th annual Southern Utah Early Childhood Conference participate in a group activity, St. George, Utah, date not specified | Photo courtesy of Five County Association of Governments, St. George News

The 19th annual “Southern Utah Early Childhood Conference,” organized by Care About Childcare from the Five County Association of Governments, brought together some of the top speakers in the industry to educate each other on more effective ways to improve the lives of young children in Southern Utah.

Carrie Sigler, director of Care About Childcare, told St. George News this year’s event was the biggest conference they’ve held. 

“It was just absolutely phenomenal,” she said. “I’m just on a high because it went so well.”

Sigler said her colleagues meet several times throughout the year to plan the conference that gathers assets from several different agencies that work with children. Participants received a comprehensive packet of information and resources that will not only help them on the job with the children they work with but their own kids at home too.

Sigler said the collaborative experience both provides training and camaraderie.

“They’re working together, they’re getting to know each other, they’re sharing ideas and experiences — they’re just having a good time,” she said. “They’re getting away from their classroom. They’re having a really good time, and they’re learning something too.”

The event opened Friday night with a speech to over 100 local childcare providers from Michael Bahr, education director for the Utah Shakespeare Festival, who had the entire room up singing and dancing.

Bahr, who has been with the festival for the past 20 years, has also taught in public schools in California and Utah and has developed numerous educational programs for grade school, junior high and high school students.

He used this experience to help develop his Saturday presentation on “Cultivating and Culture of Play: Theatre Games and Exercises for Classroom Magic and Management.”

Sigler said participants were taught games that can be utilized to build trust, imagination and participation with their children.

“He was just so full of energy and spunk,” she said. 

Kindergarten teacher Harmony Langford conducted the “Lunch and Learn” session on Saturday with lessons about games that build social and emotional skills. During the session, over 30 early childhood professionals received their National Child Development Associate Credential.

“Lunch and Learn” at 19th annual Early Childhood Conference where 30 professionals received their National Child Development Associate credential, Sept. 28, 2019 | Photo courtesy of Carrie Sigler, St. George News

“She (Langford) talked about movement and how critical movement is to physical, social and emotional development of children, and most of that movement comes in play,” Sigler said. “While they’re eating, they’re singing and dancing and they’re jumping up and down. They really got a lot of good information from her, simply because she is so vivacious.”

Most of the information at the conference is geared to use with children ages 0-5, but Langford also included some lessons in her sessions for kids up to ages 6 and 7. 

Challenging behaviors in children can test a child care provider’s will, but educator and entrepreneur Barb O’Neill said in her keynote speech that there are several effective strategies to be confident in preventing and dealing with these issues. She posed an unusual question: What if you loved challenging behavior?

Barb O’Neill, date and location unspecified | Photo courtesy of Care About Childcare, St, George News

Sigler called O’Neill “an amazing woman,” adding that the keynote speaker devotes herself to speaking and training all around the U.S. She also created the Transform Challenging Behavior Online Conference, a free annual online event attended by thousands of early childhood professionals from around all around the world. “She’s done everything.”

Throughout the year, Care About Childcare works with other child care professionals, parents and the community to improve the quality of care in 10 Utah counties: Washington, Iron, Beaver, Garfield, Kane, Millard, Sanpete, Sevier, Piute and Wayne. They offer referrals and information about resources that are available for parents and also training for providers. 

In the long run, Sigler said the benefits these annual conferences and education pass along will be seen in the communities’ kids. 

“That exactly what we want to do, because the more that the teachers and the child care providers are learning, they’re going to take that back to the kids first.”

She said their No. 1 goal is to work with brain development of babies and young children so that they can reach their full potential.

Find out more information about Care About Childcare online.

Email: apinckney@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews 

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2019, all rights reserved.

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