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Preschool Continues Valentine Tradition to Promote Kindness, Good Manners

Twenty-two years ago Heather Eiland watched her 5-year-old daughter Jessica and her pre-school classmates link arms and parade around the school courtyard in their finest outfits. Mom and daughter watched Jessica's 5-year-old son Jaxson Hood continue the tradition Thursday, Feb. 13 in the First United Methodist Preschool's annual Valentine's Day parade.

Parents and grandparents snapped photos and beamed proudly as the 44 children circled the school courtyard for the kickoff of the annual celebration that includes dancing, heart-shaped snacks, distributing valentines and lessons about love and kindness.

Activities stress good manners and polite conversation. The young gentlemen were expected to pull out the chairs to seat their lady partners and serve them their snacks and punch before serving themselves. In a beautifully decorated dining room covered in hearts the children marched in through a draped doorway, posed on a bench for photos and were escorted to elegantly set tables. They enjoyed heart-shaped crackers with cheese, fresh strawberries, vanilla ice cream and punch while displaying their finest manners and giving each other compliments.

"Social emotional skills are so important to help each child be successful in life and school," said Preschool Director Tracy Kinney. "Though academics are very important, it's the social and emotional foundation and well-being of children that enables them to be ready to learn and function well in society."

In her first year as director and 15th year at the preschool, Kinney said the Valentine's Parade and other events throughout the year continue timeless traditions that families have come to expect and enjoy.

"Everything is so great, so positive," Eiland said. "This place is full of good memories."

She said when her grandson Jaxson visits he sometimes starts the prayer before meals – the same one his mom learned when she was his age. Jessica said she never considered any other options for Jaxson's preschool experience and actually signed him up on the waitlist within a couple of months of his birth.

Teacher Callie Moore used a paper heart as a visual aid to help her students better understand their reactions to words, actions and gestures. They talked about how words and actions make them happy and how negative or unkind words can hurt.

Dr. Mark Hutek, CEO of the Early Learning Coalition of Polk County, shares Kinney's thoughts about how the Valentine's Day event is a great experience that can teach preschoolers the importance of kindness and other life skills. The ELC helps support and provide school readiness and Voluntary Pre-K programs to First Methodist and over 350 other providers throughout Polk County.

"A critical point that research has proven is that a child's brain development before the age of five is responsible for so many of the social and emotional traits displayed in adults," Hutek said. "Having children learn manners as well as appropriate ways to act in more formal situations at such a young age sets the precedence to a clearer understanding to adult-like behaviors.

"I'm thrilled to see the children have the opportunity to experience this type of activity," he said. "It's not just fun, it's the development of a personality."

For event photo gallery, click this link:


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