Over the course of 3 weeks, 35 of the children at YWCA Princeton’s Young Wonders Child Development Center have participated in anti-bullying workshops lead by Kidsbridge, an organization dedicated to teaching children social-emotional skills, tolerance, and the value of diversity. YWCA Princeton CEO Judy Hutton recognized the importance of teaching young children the value of unconditional kindness and respect for others because it aligns so strongly with YWCA Princeton’s mission to eliminate racism and empower women.
“I was talking to Lynne Azarchi, the executive director of Kidsbridge, and she told me that bullying and racism actually can manifest itself at age 3,” Hutton said. “That blew me away.”
This conversation ultimately lead to the collaboration between YWCA Princeton and Kidsbridge. The children in the Young Wonders Child Development Center’s programs are between the ages of 8 weeks to 5 years old, and the skills learned during these critical years are essential to becoming well-rounded, kind members of the community.
The Kidsbridge instructors brought their “Kidsbridge Kids” (Diversity Dolls) to the Young Wonders classrooms to demonstrate situations that may be stressful or cause an angry response, like arguing with a sibling or peer.
The children learned stress-management and mindfulness through sensory-specific activities, like smelling mint tea leaves, sitting calmly and listening to bells, and breathing exercises. The inclusion of an anti-bullying curriculum is another example of the YWCA’s commitment to its mission. Children are engaged in age-appropriate activities that emphasize respect, appreciation for other cultures, and the value of diversity. In March, children celebrated Holi, the first day of spring typically practiced in Nepal and India, with bright colors and cheer. The YWCA also has a bilingual nursery school for Spanish-speaking children.
“Our goal is to prepare the children in our program for kindergarten so they will thrive, not only academically, but socially as well,” said Hutton. “We’re proud to take preventative measures to make sure our Young Wonders won’t endure bullying, nor will they become bullies themselves. Instead, they’ll be able to focus on having fun, making friends, and being kind.”