• Playgroup good for children, parents

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  • Katie Peterson | Staff Writer
    “I got three, mommy!” 3-year-old Brayden Thompson shouted after he knocked down a block tower and caught three blocks in a bucket during the Army Community Service and Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation Community Playgroup Feb. 8 at Patch Community Center, 320 Pope Ave.
    The weekly playgroup is 9-10:30 a.m. every Thursday from September to May, and is open to all families with children ages 0-3 who are registered with Child and Youth Services.
    “This is a way to offer families a place to come and play with one another, and we can model an appropriate developmental play for them,” said Erin Ford, New Parent Support Program home visitor and co-playgroup facilitator. “We do early literacy through stories and songs and it’s a place for parents to find support with one another and bring a sense of community for them.”
    The playgroup offers an hour of free play with blocks, dinosaur toys, trucks and dolls before ending with a story and songs at circle time. The Feb. 8 session included “Eyes & Nose, Fingers & Toes,” an interactive book by Sesame Workshop and motion songs, “If You’re Happy and You Know It,” “Itsy Bitsy Spider” and “The Wheels on the Bus.”
    “Sometimes we have themes for special holidays but there’s not always a specific theme. We have some regular songs that we do every week so the kids learn them and become comfortable with them so they can participate within them more,” Ford said. “Because they’re so little, they’re still learning, but the songs help promote language and development.”
    Brayden’s mom Wendy Thompson, wife of Maj. Mark Thompson, Training and Doctrine Command Analysis Center, said it gives her son a chance to play with children his own age.
    “He has an older sister, (5-year-old Anna) and she has a lot of friends that come over to play, but he doesn’t really have any friends his age,” Thompson said. “So, he’s learning more constructive play with his peers.”
    Christina Loredo, mother of 2-year-old Grace, said the playgroup has helped with her daughter’s social skills.
    “For my son, (6-year-old Aiden), I worked full-time so he had daycare with natural socialization. She doesn’t have that same benefit because I’m a stay-at-home mom now,” Loredo said. “She’s a lot more reserved so this has helped her go from not being able to even be with a babysitter to me being able to drop her off places and she doesn’t scream anymore because she’s had all this practice with other adults and other children. She’s blossomed and become a lot more social.”
    Page 2 of 2 - Thompson said her children haven’t experienced a big move yet, having been stationed at Fort Leavenworth for four years, but having the playgroup and other activities have been ways to prepare them when a move happens.
    “I think knowing that other posts offer the same activities, you can be a little bit more prepared and get your kids ready, knowing that (you can say) ‘When we move here, they will still have playgroups and gymnastic classes,’” Thompson said. “So, it helps them feel a little bit more comfortable moving to a new place knowing that they’re going to make new friends and knowing that they’ll have familiar activities.”
    Joanne Medellin, NPSP home visitor and co-playgroup facilitator, said the playgroup offers benefits for the parents as well as the children.
    “It just gives the parents the opportunity to socialize with other parents because I think they get a chance to normalize what’s going on for their kids developmentally by seeing different developmental stages that the kids are going through,” Medellin said. “A lot of parents have questions about that and I think they kind of utilize the playgroup to talk with other parents and talk to us about different ages and stages that they’re going through and see what to expect and what’s normal.”
    Thompson said it’s a great way to meet friends.
    “We have to engross ourselves immediately and find other spouses who are there and you connect with,” she said. “I make my friends through my kids.”
    Loredo, whose husband Maj. Elias Loredo is currently on a yearlong unaccompanied tour to Korea, said the group of friends she has obtained through the playgroup has helped her while her husband is gone.
    “It’s made all the difference. This gives us something to do to pass the time,” she said. “I have a large support group now. We’ve been sick several times and the ladies at these playgroups have brought me groceries and offered to watch my kids for me, and if I hadn’t come to these playgroups, I would have nobody to help me.”
    Thompson originally heard about the playgroup from Loredo, who ­­met each other through gymnastic classes with Brayden and Grace. Loredo said she told Thompson and other friends about the group because she wants to help get the word out because “it’s a good group.”
    “It’s not just for your children — it’s for you, too. If you’re at home, it just helps foster a place for all the other moms to get together and bond,” Loredo said. “The kids are off developing their social skills, but we’re creating friendships for ourselves and that’s very important when you stay at home because you don’t have that many opportunities to find friends, especially friends in the same life stages as you. So, we can kind of all go through this life stage together and it helps a lot.”
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