BLOCK Fest

The University of Idaho developed BLOCK Fest in 2005 to harness the power of play in helping children learn.

BOISE, Idaho - For young children, the building blocks of education could be just that - blocks.

Groups are in Boise today meeting with lawmakers for Early Learning Day and also to tout the role that play has in teaching the youngest Idahoans.

Brandi Nyhof, outreach coordinator for the Idaho Association for the Education of Young Children, said the day is designed to show what quality learning looks like. She said hands-on experiences are crucial for developing math, learning and social skills, and laying the foundation for elementary school and beyond.

"We know that children learn through play, and we've invited parents, legislators and then local child-care programs to join us at the Capitol for three sessions of BLOCK Fest," she said. "BLOCK Fest is an interactive exhibit that was developed in Idaho that illustrates the importance of early learning through play."

Idaho AEYC is hosting BLOCK Fest sessions in the Idaho State Capitol Rotunda. The program was developed at the University of Idaho in 2005 and now is in 14 other states. Other groups in Boise for Early Learning Day include Idaho Voices for Children, the state chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Idaho Commission for Libraries.

Nyhof said supporting early education is important for the state's future.

"Idaho really needs quality, affordable preschool options for Idaho's families so their children have a very strong foundation," she said, "so they can excel once they enter kindergarten and then beyond, so we have a very strong workforce coming up."

The Gem State is one of six that doesn't invest in preschool, even though polls show support is high for providing access to early learning. A recent national survey found only 15 percent of Americans say local programs are high-quality and affordable. More than three-quarters of Idaho parents said they'd use a public preschool option if the state offered one, according to a 2017 poll.

More information on Early Learning Day is online at idahoaeyc.org.

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