By: Marie Huey

Early Education Spotlight is an ongoing series that showcases great work happening in child care and preschool settings across Minnesota. From innovative early learning programs to parent perspectives on what works, check out the Early Education Spotlight for unique examples of Minnesota’s early learning successes.

Children practice skills they will need for Kindergarten.

You could say that Mariyan Jama is a Parent Aware all-star. She participated in the pilot of the program in 2010. She left the family child care business for a while, but when she came back in 2015 she jumped in to participate again. Her South Minneapolis program, Daryeel Group Home Daycare, has the highest possible rating of Four Stars.

Parent Aware is the statewide quality ratings system for early learning programs. It promotes research-based best practices among participating programs through training and coaching, then rates them on a scale of one to four stars. Parents can access the ratings information to determine which early childhood program will be best for their child and family. These best practices are evident all over Mariyan’s program. She also incorporates her own style and background to give it a unique touch.

Relationship with Parents
Mariyan communicates with parents about what their children are doing so that they can coordinate between home and child care. When Mariyan hears a child say a new word, she lets parents know. She helps children learn how to feed themselves and talks to parents about how to reinforce that at home. Parents are sometimes surprised by how much children can do on their own, and Mariyan encourages parents to help their kids be more independent.

Mariyan’s commitment to helping her families succeed goes beyond these exchanges. Many of the families she works with are new immigrants. She helps them navigate their new city, even waking up extra early to provide transportation for their children. Most parents work full-time, so Mariyan provides a safe, nurturing environment that parents trust.

Supporting Child Development
Mariyan works with children of varying ages, from infant to preschool. Within these ages, the children have a range of abilities. Her work with Parent Aware helps her identify where children are and what support they need to advance.

Mariyan gives children fun, age-appropriate opportunities to learn and grow.

For instance, she learned from an assessment that an infant in her care was behind developmentally. By slowly and intentionally increasing tummy time for the baby, she was able to get the child back on track. She notes that having a
variety of ages is helpful because it allows the children to challenge and learn from each other. She intentionally creates the environment to facilitate these exchanges.

School Readiness
A crucial part of a high-quality early learning program is its ability to educate children and prepare them for school. Mariyan accomplishes this in many ways, and she continually improves what she is doing as she incorporates new learnings. For instance:

  • With toddlers, Mariyan uses manipulatives to support fine motor development. She also talks with them about the color and shape of the objects to facilitate language and cognitive development.
  • They talk about taking turns. Mariyan celebrates when children share. They talk about emotions and practice saying what they need, which are important skills for school and life.
  • Mariyan speaks in Somali and English to the children. Most of the children in her program speak Somali at home, but she does have some who speak primarily English. The bilingual environment is great for brain development and leads to cultural exchanges.
  • When they are ready, Mariyan gives the children time to practice holding pencils and writing. Here, too, she incorporates two languages. Children practice in English and Arabic.
  • Although she lives in a busy part of town, Mariyan takes the children outside when possible. Their walks around the neighborhood give them more learning opportunities to talk about trees, shapes, bugs, and other objects in the environment.

The real key to Daryeel Group Home Daycare’s high quality is Mariyan herself. Parent Aware has helped her learn a tremendous about how to educate children, but she wants to learn more. She enjoys attending new trainings, especially when she can take what she learned and implement it right away. Her Parent Aware Quality Coach says that the Four Star Parent Aware rating isn’t enough for Mariyan; she wants to do more.

Mariyan is also a leader. Other child care providers who know her, especially other Somali providers, seek her advice. Mariyan encourages and coaches them. Mariyan’s love of learning is a benefit to the children and her community.