Child Fair offers safety tips, free screenings and fun

Parents with young tykes, take heed.

In partnership with other organizations, the Montelores Early Childhood Council is putting on its fourth annual Early Childhood Fair and Celebration Day. The event, geared toward parents and kids ranging from infants to 5-year-olds, is this Saturday, April 27 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the county annex building.

Last year’s event drew 288 people, according to organizer Tyra Hughes, 115 of them children. Attendance in 2012 suffered from bad weather, so MECC Coordinator Vangi McCoy is hoping for a higher turnout this time.

The county health department and private practices will offer free dental, hearing and vision, and developmental screenings. The latter tests motor, language and cognitive skills.

Children are invited to bring their teddy bear, or other species of favorite stuffed animal, for “check-ups.” That way doctors can explain to the kids what a stethoscope and other instruments do, to demystify and overcome fear of doctor’s visits.

Area preschools will be present with information and registration forms, McCoy said.

Safety is a key theme. The Cortez Police Department will take fingerprint samples, which help identify lost or missing children. Volunteers will teach families about bike helmet safety, and sell helmets for $5 each. Parents can also have car seats checked to make sure they are the right size for the child and are installed correctly in the vehicle. Until noon, car seats will be sold for $25.

“The big focus is that healthy kids are ready kids. If they’re in good health, they’ll be ready to learn,” said Hughes.

It’s not all serious. Organizers have included entertainment and prizes to keep families mirthful.

Door prizes, books and gift certificates will be divvied up to lucky ticket holders, and Durango children’s musician Melanie Milburn will charm with her light-hearted ditties.

McCoy said the event is instrumental in bridging the knowledge gap for young parents.

“Parenting is one of the hardest jobs any of us undertake. It’s the one we least prepare young people for. We don’t have formalized parent training. So they inevitably have plenty of questions. This is an opportunity to talk to experts, identify any red flags and what to do about them,” she said.

The event is sponsored financially by the Kiwanis Club of Mesa Verde.

For more information, call 529-0635.