Asense of community, that awareness of others and society, needs to be encouraged because it is an important part of developing a child's self-esteem.
Infants enter the world concerned only with their own physical needs, and young children are very self-centered. As they grow and mature, opportunities are needed to develop giving relationships. When children belong to a group that has shared interests and values, they feel connected and more accepted. The school-age child care setting can build community not only within the program, but also foster ties to the community at large.
This sense of community with the program can be created by allowing to set group goals, by helping them to establish rules and by working with them on group projects. As children mature and enter upper elementary school, child care programs can provide special activities to promote leadership and communication skills.
When school-age children are preparing to move to middle or junior high school and to leave the protective environment of the SACC center, they can be helped in the transition by connecting them directly to other groups in activities in the larger community. This may be done through field trips to community resources such as the library or youth center or by introducing them to ongoing programs such as 4-H, scouts or other volunteer opportunities. The following activities will help nurture a sense of community and the skills to function in the larger world.
* Organize you program to provide children with opportunities to make decisions.
*Help older children develop leadership skills by teaching these skills and giving opportunities to practice them. (An excellent example is the 4-H Leadership Skills Curriculum available from Cooperative Extension).
*Make service to the larger community a part of your program by taking part in community-wide activities.
*Invite community resource people to come to your program and share their expertise.
*Take field trips to places in the community.
*Collect food for hungry people.
*Sponsor a child and have the children earn money to send to that child.
*Hold a special program for teachers in your school.
*Entertain senior citizens.
*Start a 4-H club or scout troop.
These suggestions are just a few that you and the children might enjoy. Hold a brainstorming session with the children, and you will have many more ideas. And remember, encouraging a sense of community in children and developing a sense of empathy towards others is essential, for these are the necessary attributes of a confident, capable adult citizen.