For our August Supporter Spotlight we caught up with Leah Hanson, Director of Family, Youth, and School Programs from the Dallas Museum of Art,
to chat with her a bit about our partnership together around Baby Day and what inspired the DMA to get involved.
With programs like "First Tuesdays", specifically designed for children five years and younger, the DMA served as a perfect choice to host Baby Day 2020. We are thrilled to be partnering with the Dallas Museum of Art!
What attracted you to the organization/Why did you get involved?
"The thing that attracted me most is right there in your name, that the organization focuses on our youngest children. When I first started here at the DMA, and the reason I came to Dallas, was that this museum had a position dedicated just for early learning which was unique at the time. That has always been my first love and First3Years really focuses on the youngest visitors we see at the DMA, who I am passionate about serving. I appreciate the work the organization does to make it more visible to policy-makers, to teachers, but most importantly to parents. About how important those first three years of life are, that it is not just play time. Play time is learning time, our babies are really fascinating people. They come with their own personalities and abilities and characteristics. As grown-ups, it is our job to be detectives and figure out what it is that they know, and who they are and I think First3Years does a really good job of highlighting ways to do that."
In your opinion, what is the most important work that this organization does?
"I love how empowering you all are to parents. There can be plenty of people who talk down to parents or make them feel guilty, creating a situation where there is a deficit outlook. Where you are looking at all the things you are not doing right and haven't been able to achieve and First3Years does a good job at looking at it in a positive light and showing parents all the things that they are already doing but that they just didn't realize they were doing naturally from the way that people often interact with babies. You are putting research and knowledge behind that so they feel good about what they are doing and you bridge that to more ways they can interact and play with children in ways that don't require having a lot of money or having fancy toys or a beautiful playroom, but showing them that playing with pots and pans or talking about what you see when you go to the park and using interesting vocabulary words, that these are ways that are going to help build your child's brain and it makes it feel more like something parents can achieve."
How does First3Years uniquely contribute to the community?
"The fact that there is a Baby Day, which I haven't heard of anyone else doing, is incredibly unique. I love how you guys describe how you celebrate mothers on Mother's Day and fathers on Father's Day but now there is a day to celebrate babies. I love the idea of Baby Day being not just a day of something fun to do but actually a celebration that can continue at home, it is something families can internalize and make their own."
What do you hope the organization will achieve in the near future? In the long term?
"I think it is really important that we continue the conversation about how important those first three years are by adding an extra layer of support for advocating for early childhood education and how important that it is that every child gets that opportunity and that location and resources, and socio-economics aren't barriers. There have been a lot of studies showing how high-quality preschool sets kids on track to excel in school and how that is bolstered by everything that happens before a kid gets to preschool. Toddlers who have a rich vocabulary because their parents read to them all the time are going to be doing better in preschool and that is going to set them up to achieve more in school. The way our society is right now, I feel like it is really important for our kids to be successful in school whether or not they are kids that are great at standardize testing. First3Years adds a base layer to what we talk about when we talk about what is important in preschool and we need to make that connection with more people."
Does anyone in your life play a role in supporting your involvement? In providing inspiration?
"The fact that I knew Sadie previously outside of First3Years and once I saw her, it was an ah-ha moment. When I first started here, she had brought in a group of children while she was working at Catholic Charities, I just remember her enthusiasm and even then, how visible her dedication was to young children. Having that personal connection to Baby Day and realizing it was already with someone I knew and trusted that was truly invest in kids and has been invested in kids for a really long time. I think that was encouraging from the start."
Do you have an anecdote about this organization that really moved you? Or is there anything else you would like to share?
"I am really excited about Baby Day! I got to help launch the baby program here at the DMA and so anything that raises more awareness for how amazing our little babies are and how much they are already taking in I am all for. I am excited to invite and welcome more families to the DMA. My primary goal is to make families feel more comfortable here and realize that the DMA, and any art museum, can be just as natural of a place for you to take your family like the library is or a park. Your organization already has a really good relationship with families and I hope that because they trust you that they realize that they can trust us too. This is a place that they are welcome and that loves infants and toddlers. Coming to an art museum when you are really young will make it just feel more natural of a place for you to come when the kids are older so that it just feels like a place where you love making family memories."