Parents to businesses: Please welcome our children when we visit you

by Jim Boyle


Parents of preschool-age children say what they appreciate most in a business is staffs who are welcoming to their kids, according to survey results from the Elk River Early Childhood Coalition.

The survey, which targeted adults with young children, was filled out by 269 adults. One-third of the respondents had a welcoming environment for kids as one of their top three choices.

Photo by Jim Boyle  Laura Ylitalo, 10, read a book while her mother visited with Bright Eyes Vision Clinic staff members.
Photo by Jim Boyle
Laura Ylitalo, 10, read a book while her mother visited with Bright Eyes Vision Clinic staff members.

“One thing that’s exciting about this is that it doesn’t cost a dime,” said Nicole Huntley, the coordinator of the Elk River Early Childhood Coaltion. “It’s as simple as training everyone that works at a business to be warm and friendly to children and families. Families want to feel welcome.”

The survey is a continuation of the coalition’s efforts to bring the business community and early childhood advocates together to expedite the coalition’s main goal to promote school readiness.

The Elk River Early Childhood Coalition brought in former Gov. Al Quie in April 2012 to talk to businesses, educators and caregivers about the importance of school readiness.

The coalition stays busy with the topic of school readiness by routinely getting child care providers, caregivers and parents together for educational talks and programs.

“We’ve started to create a bridge between the people who work with children and kindergarten teachers,” Huntley said of parents, child care providers and caregivers.

The coalition is working on bringing in another speaker — Katy Smith, the first early childhood educator to win teacher of the year honors from Education Minnesota —to address parents, businesses, caregivers and educators later this year. To this end, the group is working on securing additional funding.

So far its work has been done with the help of a series of three $10,000 grants from the Minnesota Initiative Foundation.

Highlights include bringing the Minnesota Children’s Museum exhibit on early learning and its work with follow along programming that pairs kindergarten teachers and those that work with children from birth to age 5.

The foundation remains committed to early childhood and school readiness, but they have made a transition away from funding ongoing efforts of coalitions across the state toward offering innovation grants to create programs to address needs.

Huntley said the Elk River coalition is committed to school readiness and literacy to help children have success in school. “Our focus is on cradle to career,” Huntley said.

Meanwhile, the survey will be used as a tool to continue a dialogue with the marketplace about what families with young children are looking for from businesses where they shop and go for services.

The second biggest concern of theirs when frequenting a business is having changing tables — in both the women’s and men’s restrooms. Two responses, which tied for third in the survey, called for a play area in or near where they are shopping or having toys or books available.