Parenting Perspective on Early Childhood
Early childhood is a time of unbounded growth and learning, and parents play a major role in that early development. Experts and support specialists emphasize the critical role that parents play in these early years, but parents of young children may not always see how expert advice relates to their parenting experiences.

Joan Eichner, the children’s policy director at OCD, sought to creatively connect this expert information about early learning and development to the actual experiences of parents. “At the end of the day, all of our work—the work of the professionals—is meant to improve outcomes for kids,” said Eichner. “The best way that can happen, and the only way that our efforts will be sustainable, is when parents are involved. Their perspective and their day-to-day reality is crucial as we think about creating early childhood services and building public awareness about child and family issues.”

While exploring ways to increase public awareness about the importance of early learning, Eichner discovered the Under 4ft Tall, the final competition of the Pittsburgh and Grable foundations’ Voices of Youth initiative. Under 4ft Tall supports projects that advocate for the issues facing young children. After Eichner’s project was selected as a finalist, it won funding by a public online vote.

Between November 2010 and July 2011, Eichner worked with Pittsburgh Filmmakers to develop DocYOUmenting Hope, a 20-minute documentary on early childhood and parenting. The documentary features a variety of perspectives on the importance of early childhood learning and development, including those of early childhood experts, teachers, and parents raising young children. Each perspective focuses on the hopeful, unbounded feeling of early childhood learning.

The documentary is split into three sections: Early Learning Through Relationships, Early Learning Through Play, and Parents’ Hopes and Dreams. In the first two sections, early childhood experts, teachers, and parents of young children share their perspectives on the impact that relationships and play have on a developing child.

The final section focuses entirely on parents’ own hopes and dreams for their children. According to Eichner, this perspective on early childhood is particularly important. “There is a lot of information out there about parenting, and some parents might not know what to do with all the information being pressed upon them,” said Eichner. “Our hope is that this documentary approach encourages parents by helping them to hear the voices of other parents.”

Parents’ Hopes and Dreams

Eichner hopes that the film, as part of OCD’s ongoing efforts to improve communication about children, will inspire increase public understanding of early child development while inspiring adults to recognize that they have—through their interactions with young children—something worth giving to nurture that youthful hope in a child’s early years.