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Whoa, Mom. Hang on to those empty paper towel rolls. Hold on, Auntie, don’t send those empty milk jugs to the recycling bin just yet. As a new PBS TV show demonstrates, one caretaker’s trash could definitely be a toddler or pre-schooler’s treasure.

A Place of Our Own has made its way to the Chicagoland area. The Los Angeles-produced show is an informational series that helps parents and other at-home caregivers, including licensed home day care owners, ready young children for elementary school.

With English and Spanish formats, the show, which features advice and activities from child development experts, is the first series of its kind. Originally aired on PBS stations only in California since 2005, the program has expanded to include all PBS stations across the nation. The popularity of the show increased as more and more families opted to care for their young children at home or to send them to home daycare providers.

Home-based child care by what the state of Illinois calls Family, Friend or Neighbor Child Care, is one of the most preferred methods of child care in the state. According to the state, 54 percent of children, from birth to age 5, receive FFN care. While day care home providers are licensed, they usually charge substantially less than day care centers.

With so many children not enrolled in a traditional day care program%uFFFDwhere staff is required to have certain education and credentials, centers are licensed and regulated by the state and children participate in age-appropriate activities%uFFFD A Place of Our Own serves as a resource for FFN caregivers and day care home providers.

The show’s objective, according to its producers, is to help prepare the babies at home for kindergarten and elementary school. The producers sought to help give the children at home a comparable experience to children in licensed child care centers. When Alec Colchico started her family, she wanted to be at home with her children.

“I was leery of child care [centers],” the mother of two and A Place of Our Own’s imagination and activity expert said. Colchico had previously gotten a degree in Radio, Film and Television but returned to school and got a master’s degree in Human Development. Now a 15-year veteran in the early childhood field, she appears each day on the PBS show.

Colchico, in Chicago for a recent industry conference, told the Defender that the show offers athome caregivers tutelage to socially and emotionally ready their little tikes. “In order for a child to be successful in elementary school and on his own, the child must have socialization skills,” Colchico told the Defender. “[The child] must know how to navigate issues and how to ask for things,” she explained. The show’s activities and industry advice turns what would be a mere babysitting experience into a developmental adventure.

And Colchico said turning a home into a learning and social environment is not too difficult a task. Each day, A Place of Our Own shows caregivers exactly how. The show, which airs locally on WTTW Ch. 11, focuses on an array of early childhood topics %uFFFD from health and nutrition to developmental benchmarks and even early detection of special needs. A Place of Our Own is sponsored by BP, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and First 5 California.

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