Author: Nicole Allman
Argentina Burbano kneels by a frustrated toddler. In the midst of constructing a train, the child struggles to affix wheels to the train’s base. Argentina fetches another train car and set of wheels. As she models the motion of attaching the two, the child’s face transforms. With a look of determination, the child aligns the wheels with the train, and together she and Argentina fasten them into place with a click.
Argentina demonstrates this level of intentionality in every interaction with the five children, all infants and toddlers, enrolled in her family child care program. As a mother and long-time caregiver, Argentina has exercised this skill for many years, guiding each child she encounters to learn and grow through every experience. Her own enthusiasm for learning and her steadfast commitment to giving children enriching early experiences exemplify All Our Kin providers’ enormous dedication to our youngest learners.
“[All Our Kin] was the best thing.”
Argentina discovered All Our Kin in the fall of 2014, while taking courses at Norwalk Community College. After providing informal care for a time, Argentina was eager to formalize her program, recognizing that licensure is a key step in establishing safe, healthy settings for children. In pursuit of her family child care license, Argentina approached one of her classmates, a family child care provider, who recommended that Argentina reach out to All Our Kin. “This was the best thing that could have happened,” Argentina says, going on to explain the challenges the daunting, often cumbersome licensing process presents. “If All Our Kin hadn’t come along, I would still be working towards my license.”
Upon receiving her family child care license early this year, Argentina opened her program, joined by an assistant, and became part of All Our Kin’s Family Child Care Network in Stamford. The Network’s bilingual programs and services have allowed Argentina to continue her study of child development in the language she feels most comfortable, Spanish. “Everything I know about babies, the social and cognitive and emotional,” she explains, “I know through All Our Kin.”
Argentina Strengthens Children’s School Readiness with Read, Count, Grow
In addition to attending All Our Kin’s workshops and trainings, Argentina works with Antonia Better-Wirz, an All Our Kin Educational Consultant, to enhance her skills and practice as an educator. As a participant of All Our Kin’s Read, Count, Grow program, Argentina receives targeted coaching and consultation surrounding early literacy and numeracy concepts and strategies. Through the program, providers build intentionality into their actions, interactions, and routines with children to better support young children’s learning in these key areas.
Since beginning Read, Count, Grow, Argentina has reworked her program space to include a cozy reading corner, which gives children access to a collection of board books and fluffy pillows. Argentina has also incorporated counting and matching activities into her curriculum to help children establish strong foundations for success in math and science.
As Argentina explains one such activity, an animal pattern game, a child leaps to a classroom bookshelf to retrieve a bucket brimming with colorful animals. While he unpacks the animals, Argentina encourages him to name and describe each one. “What animal are you holding?” she asks. The child gives the object in his grasp an inquisitive stare, and then responds, “A cow!” “And what sound does the cow make?” Argentina replies. The child glances back shyly before belting out, “Moo!” Argentina extends the learning opportunity, exploring with the child how he might arrange the animals into a pattern. Before long, a carefully laid sequence emerges: cow, pig, horse, cow, pig, horse.
All Our Kin’s Read, Count, Grow program has also enabled Argentina to address a common challenge among family child care providers: individualization in a mixed-age group. In her efforts to create learning experiences that benefit children of all developmental stages, Argentina regularly brainstorms strategies that engage every child, regardless of age or ability. Recently, Argentina supported the older toddlers to model pre-literacy skills for the younger children. The result, she explains, has proved transformative, strengthening the bonds between children while simultaneously expanding their opportunities for learning.
Argentina looks forward to continuing her growth as an early childhood educator by enrolling in All Our Kin’s Child Development Associate (CDA) credential courses, college-level training that requires classroom and hands-on hours, completion of a portfolio, an observational assessment, and an oral and written exam. “I think I still need more information about how I can improve my ability to support children,” Argentina says. “I think the CDA will give me all the tools I need to work with children successfully.”
“The children wake up the love in my heart.”
As a bustling day of finger painting, outdoor play, block castle construction, and fruit smoothie making comes to an end, Argentina reflects on the rewards associated with her work. Having the opportunity to educate and nurture young children every day is a career she considers an immense privilege. “The children wake up the love in my heart,” she says. And as the children prepare to leave for the weekend, packing backpacks with the day’s bright creations, they gather around Argentina, eager for one more activity.