What is ECFE?

ECFE is a program unique to Minnesota that serves all families with children ages newborn through 5 years old. It is structured as a parent education program that focuses on helping to build the relationship between parents and their children with an emphasis on parents truly being their children’s first teacher.

Our classes vary in structure from non-separating infant and early toddler classes, to gradually separating toddler classes, with the eventual goal of separating classes so parents and children spend equal time together and apart.

Our classes are taught by state licensed teachers (both early childhood and parent educators) who go through consistent continuing education to keep current on the latest research, trends and best practices for our classrooms.   We are dedicated professionals who truly believe in the value of early education and are passionate about reaching as many families as possible.

The pride we take in our work is reflected in our classroom space and materials, as each week we plan specific lessons tailored to the needs of our students. Our classrooms are separated into different learning stations where we can provide families with opportunities to explore sensory materials, art, dramatic play, literacy and STEM activities, and small and large motor experiences.

Each activity is planned for and based on specific state mandated indicators of quality that have been proven to best support a child’s development at any given age. We focus strongly on the social-emotional aspects of children (self-regulation, turn taking, sharing, playing together) and truly believe in the power of play as a way of teaching the whole child and preparing them for future school success.

Our classrooms are also set up to be an environment where children can feel relaxed and welcome to play. From our child sized bathroom facilities, tables and gym equipment, everything is designed with a child’s success in mind. We value allowing children to have a space that is designed with “Yes you can” in mind because it supports their feelings of confidence and mastery in a time where the fight for power/control can often be overwhelming (for both parent and child!)

Our parent educators also follow state guidelines for best practices and follow a core curriculum to help parents feel supported in their parenting. The goal in any parent education situation is never to tell you HOW to parent—as we believe that there truly is no one “right” way– but to rather provide you with tools and context so you can feel confident in your parenting decisions. We know how vulnerable being a parent can feel, especially when asked to share about challenges you may be facing, but every effort is made to make the classes an inclusive and welcoming environment.

A typical parent education class will cover any community announcements, parenting joys or concerns that came up during the week and then an organized, research based discussion around a topic that the participants have chosen. These range from discussions on discipline, to sleep habits, to potty training, to figuring out how to carve out time to take care of yourself. No one is ever forced to share and respectful communication/privacy is valued at all times. As a program, we value a diverse community because it helps us all to grow and expand our perspective, which is an integral part of the parenting experience. Great comfort can be taken in the fact that families from all over the world share in some of the same struggles and successes we do! It is also eye opening to learn of different ways to handle situations that might not be our first instinct. Parenting within a community can help us all to feel a bit better because we know we aren’t alone in situations and that we aren’t crazy—our parent educators are dedicated to helping set a context for all parenting issues, challenges and successes.

Overall, ECFE is a place to connect, grow and learn from others. It is a small step in helping families within our communities build the “village” that is missing from so many of our lives. Many of our participants have formed life long friendships in our classes and still connect on a regular basis—the same is true with staff!

We’d love to hear any questions you may have about our programs!

We would also love to hear about any experiences you have had with our program—what would you tell others about us?

A Parent’s Guide to the ECFE Classroom

Early Childhood is a magical time of learning in many different ways. Children learn through doing, watching, playing, decision-making and, perhaps most commonly, touching.

Our ECFE classrooms are designed with all these aspects of learning in mind. We intentionally design our learning space and activities with a child’s perspective as our guiding focus. Materials are kept at their level, touching and experimenting is encouraged, and space is given for them to choose the activity that appeals to them.

Because this is so different from the way that many of our structured “grown-up” worlds work, we put together a 3 step guide to navigating our classrooms with your child.

  • Activities are set out as suggestions for play, there is no right or wrong way to engage in them. The best way to approach the activities is to take your child’s lead and then talk to them about what they are doing. For younger children you can narrate what you see them doing “I see that you are stacking those blocks…” For older children you can ask them open ended questions that help you to understand their process and to help expand on the way they are thinking “I like the way you used that blue paint, what do you think would happen if you added another color?” Simply being present and engaged in their playing is impactful to their development and any conversation is going to help boost their continually growing vocabulary!
  • Not every area needs to be used! If your child is fascinated by the sensory table for the entire class, that’s fine! Children have a way of intentionally working on things that they are hoping to master. Sometimes the simple action of filling a cup and dumping it out is building mathematical or scientific understanding in their brains. Cars and ramp play also stimulates parts of their brains that we may not completely understand, but no play is wasted play. Embrace where they are and try to see their play choices through their eyes.
  • It’s ok to be messy! We believe that process-focused art and sensory experiences are an important part of the learning experience. All of our materials are as washable as possible and we are pros at cleaning up the “oopses” that are bound to happen. Feel free to have them wear clothes that you don’t mind getting dirty, take advantage of our painting smocks and don’t worry if the mess gets on the table! Think of our classroom as the safe spot for all that is gloriously messy and also as the spot for all that you may not want to do at home.