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The Early Childhood Arts Program at Sitar is uniquely designed to provide a safe space where children can discover, explore and develop their inherent talents. The program uses art as a vehicle to foster self-confidence and self-esteem in children younger than six years old as they undergo the most critical stage of their development. Here are five ways Sitar’s Early Childhood Arts program fosters an enriching learning environment focused on developing the whole child.

Sitar’s Early Childhood Arts Program provides art classes for babies and toddlers ages 0 to 6 with their parents or caregivers. The classes advance children’s development, foster an early appreciation of the arts and provide opportunities for bonding between the child and parent, as well as interaction with other parents, caregivers and children. Classes are in Music, Dance, Creative Movement, Visual Arts, and Bilingual Drama. Tuition is based on a sliding scale.

When the Early Childhood Arts program began more than 20 years ago, Sylvia Zwi, the current Dean and Director of Early Childhood Arts and Professional Development at Sitar, led the Center’s first childhood education music class. Today, Sitar’s early childhood music class is one of the most popular classes at the Center and is also one of many classes available to explore. Other popular classes include Infant Massage, Singing and Flamenco.

Parents can register their child in individual classes or in a more extensive program for the fall, spring or summer semesters. During the weekly Artful Play program, children rotate between different art sessions with healthy snack breaks and socialization. Another Early Childhood Arts summer program, Small Wonders, includes mediation and sessions that fuse art and STEM subjects to foster both mindfulness and scientific learning.

“Allowing children to rotate during these programs gives them the opportunity to explore and connect with several distinctive disciplines through classes such as Introduction to American Sign Language through Singing, Rainbow Dance, Bilingual Guided Dramatic Arts and Visual Arts,” Sylvia says.
Empathetic and Supportive Teaching Artists

The program started and continues to develop based on research that children are best primed for cognitive, social-emotional and sensory development before they turn five years old.
Their experiences during these early stages of life have a direct impact on their overall development and on the adult they will become.​
With this knowledge and the help of compassionate, experienced teaching artists, Sylvia helped develop a framework that comprehensively supports a young child’s development.
Sylvia says Sitar’s teaching artists are committed to learning and refining their own best practices. They follow a technically-rigorous framework where a young child’s capacity to learn is recognized, valued and nourished.

“Curiosity, exploration, creativity, critical thinking and trust are just a few of the core values and skills embedded in every class,” Sylvia says. “Incorporating these values promotes self-advocacy in an environment where children are encouraged to openly explore their interests free of fear and judgment.”

Parents and Children Teaching and Learning Together
All parent and child classes are structured so that both parties can be engaged.

“Authentic parental engagement is a key facet of the process,” Sylvia says. “We find that when parents, teaching artists and children participate in the classes together, trust and community are built.”

Focus on Literacy

Regardless of the art form, all classes are designed so adults routinely read with the children, which supports literacy and helps children bond with their parents.

“Every class has time dedicated to reading exploration. Teaching artists often develop entire lessons around books,” Sylvia says. “Emphasizing the importance of literacy inspires and excites parents and their children to read together more.”

Celebrating the Artistic Process

Sylvia says the artistic process is itself an art that deserves positive recognition. “Every session is a celebration of the joy the process brings to both individual and their collective experiences,” she says.

To celebrate this process, many of the young children who take the early childhood arts classes share what they have learned in an end-of-the-semester showcase or open class. During these moments, students may perform a dance routine or display their artwork in an intimate setting.

“The showcase is simply a way for parents and teaching artists to celebrate and support the growth and progress our youngest students have made since they’ve started their journey at Sitar,” Sylvia says.

Kandis Wallace, WWPR Member, Marketing Manager, University of Maryland – Robert H. Smith School of Business