LITCHFIELD -- Because young kids don't come with instruction manuals, one mother and her two daughters are looking to offer a streamlined, easy way to connect with new parents.
Last September, Litchfield resident Wendy Walz and her daughters, Candi Walz and Cinnamin Theisen, started distributing a weekly "Let's Talk Kids" e-newsletter with parenting tips and activities.
After receiving a positive response to the newsletter, the three decided to take their idea one step further and develop a learning kit for parents of newborns to 1-year-olds.
"I was talking to all my friends who were new parents, and they would have all these questions," said Candi Walz, an adjunct faculty member in political science at Century College in White Bear Lake. "I didn't know the answers, but I knew my mom and sister would. They're so full of information, and I knew there was a need to put that out there and help other parents."
Both Wendy Walz and Theisen are early childhood educators with years of experience dealing with young children. Theisen is also a new mother herself and used her firsthand experiences to help develop Let's Talk Kids.
The activities in the learning kit are simple, low-cost and require few supplies, instead depending on adult-child interaction. The kit includes flashcards, a mirror and stacking cups for children to learn about shapes and colors. It's assembled in a clear tote that parents can easily grab on-the-go.
"Children learn so much even just by playing peek-a-boo in a mirror or knocking stacking cups off their heads," Wendy Walz said. "It's so important to interact with your child, because that's exactly what they need."
Now the women are seeking to raise the necessary funding for their project. They started a community campaign on Kickstarter.com that ends Thursday and set a goal of raising $7,000. Once they raise the money, they hope to begin distributing the Let's Talk Kids kits in August.
"It's amazing and touching to me when I see how generous people are," Candi Walz said. "I feel like there's no training in your life to figure out how to do this. It's been overwhelming, the number of people we've reached."
As of Monday afternoon, the project had raised $2,710. If it's not fully funded by the deadline date, the project won't receive any money. The mother-daughter team are confident they can raise the money in time, though, because they believe there is a real need for this type of resource.
Wendy Walz, coordinator of early childhood programs for the Litchfield School District, says that in Minnesota, 50 percent of young children aren't ready for kindergarten.
"We need a way to prepare families to take care of their kids," she said. "We're trying to be a value-add to the great programs that already exist. It's never too early to start talking about learning. Any work we can do prior to kindergarten is a benefit."
To donate to the Let's Talk Kids Kickstarter campaign, visit kickstarter.com and search for "Let's Talk Kids."