“I’m gonna grow to be taller than you!”

“I’m going to finish my food before you!” Iker proclaimed between bites of chicken.

“Well, I’m gonna eat all of my food, then go get more food, so I’m gonna grow up to be taller than you!” David stood up, dropping his spoon on the table emphatically.

Ana Maria joined the conversation: “No, I’m gonna grow up to be taller—taller than even than the teacher!”

I laughed and almost spit out my juice.  I couldn’t help it.  This lunchtime argument was pretty adorable.

As a member of the administrative team, I usually spend my working hours in the office on my computer.  However, during lunch I usually eat with either our 5 year olds or our preschool kids.  I love the little ones—their innocence, unassuming friendliness, and silly banter make me smile every day.

Early childhood is arguably the cutest time of a child’s life, but it’s more than that.  As UNICEF puts it, it’s a time of great opportunity, but also of great vulnerability.  A child’s most important brain development happens before the age of 5.  In these early years, it is absolutely critical that children be given chances to explore, and to learn to speak and listen, as it may be harder for them to pick up these skills later on in life.  It is also important that during the first few years of life, children develop healthy relationships with caregivers and parents.  Relationships formed in early childhood form the basis for the types of relationships that children will have throughout their life as they grow, make friends, and have romantic partners.  Good nutrition during this time is vital as well, as malnutrition in early childhood can cause irreversible brain damage, growth stunting, and susceptibility to infection and chronic illness.

At Casita Copán, we choose to see early childhood as an opportunity to nurture young minds and bodies.  A quarter of our children are 5 years old are younger.  Although we’ve seen immense changes in all of our kids over the years—emotionally, behaviorally, physically, and intellectually—the most dramatic transformations come from our littlest friends.

Last year, we celebrated the completion of our first five years as an organization.  During our first five years, we gained so much knowledge and experience, and we know those early years have helped set us up for a truly fulfilling and successful life as an organization.  In addition to enhancing our programs for women and teens to reduce child abuse and early pregnancy, we plan to bring in 8-10 new kids all under the age of 5.  (Currently, about ¼ of our kids are 5 or younger and by expanding our program to include new kids who are under 5, we will increase that to 1/3.)  Research shows that interventions in nutrition, health, and education are more successful the earlier they are started.  Our hope is that by bringing younger children into our program, we can get them back on track and start making our community healthier one child at a time!  You can help us by donating now.