The history of Parents As Teachers, or PAT, started in Missouri in the 1970s. Educators began to note that children were entering kindergarten with a broad range of learning readiness. Research done at the time indicated that greater family involvement in children’s learning is an important link in the child’s development and academic ability. This probably seems like common sense to most parents now, but this was ground-breaking research at the time. Early childhood professionals suggested that a program should be developed to help parents understand their child’s development and what their role should be in the early education of their children. They suggested that this program educate parents on how their child’s development from birth on could help prepare them for school and other life successes. The program started in Missouri in 1981 with help and funding from the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and The Danforth Foundation. PAT started as a pilot project for first-time parents of newborns. In 1985, state funding was provided in order to implement the Parents As Teachers program in all Missouri school districts. Since 1985, the program has expanded to all 50 states and even to other countries.
Parents As Teachers provides parents with child development knowledge and parenting support. The program serves parents throughout pregnancy until the child enters kindergarten. The PAT vision is that all children will learn, grow, and develop to realize their full potential. Their mission is to provide the information, support, and encouragement parents need to help their children’s development during the early years of life. Program goals for PAT include: 1.) increasing parent knowledge of early childhood development and to improve parenting practices; 2.) provide early detection of developmental delays and health issues; 3.) prevent child abuse and neglect; and 4.) increase children’s school readiness and success.
We have been participating in Parents As Teachers since I was pregnant with our first child. They have provided us with prenatal knowledge of our child’s growth and development and continue to do this with every age and stage our children go through. We participate in home visits provided by our Parent Educator. The educator comes prepared with developmentally and age appropriate activities for our children, knowledge of child development, and suggestions for us to keep our children on a steady path of learning. We have also participated in various out-of-home activities provided by our school district’s Parents As Teachers program, including trips to the pumpkin patch, a barnyard day, and a “Things That Go” night focusing on different means of transportation.
Brain development research shows that you get the biggest payoff the earlier you start teaching your child. As PAT says, every child is “Born to Learn.”