By Kate Anslinger
Itâ€™s no secret that Winthrop has a lot to offer young families, and the Winthrop Parents Network is just another perk that has given young children an opportunity to get ahead.
The â€œLearn and Playâ€ groups that were started four years ago meet at the EB Newton building once a week. There are four groups, each consisting of 10-12 children who are anywhere from eighteen months up until four-five years old. The goal of the program is to increase early literacy, parenting skills and to engage families so they will stay connected with the school throughout their childâ€™s education.
â€œItâ€™s amazing to watch the social and cognitive growth of these very young children through play and fun activities,â€ said Mary Cawthorne, one of the teachers and curriculum designers. â€œFamily members participate in the learning activities with their children and share parenting tips and community information with each other. It is a very friendly, supportive playgroup family.â€
The weekly meetings run for 90 minutes and are attended by the child and a parent or guardian. The learn and play groups are led by retired kindergarten teachers and consist of a circle time activity, a story and a craft that goes along with the theme of the book. Before and after the structured portion of the class, the children are allowed to participate in â€œfree play,â€ where they socialize and engage in activities such as play-dough, blocks, and games that involve learning and development of fine motor skills. The parents are given activities to take home with the children and can also borrow a curriculum bag with books and activities on various themes.
The program is funded by a grant from the Department of Early Education and Care through the Winthrop Public Schools and part of the Coordinated Family and Community Engagement (CFCE) grant.
In addition to the weekly groups, the Winthrop Parent Network also hosts monthly family nights geared toward children from birth to eight years old. The family nights are held the first Tuesday of the month at the Gorman Fort Banks School.
â€œIt is great to be a support to families and young children in the community and connect them to the school system,â€ said Anita Preble, counselor at the Arthur T. Cummings School, who is responsible for writing the annual grant and managing the program.
Including Preble, there are six teachers involved in the organization and curriculum development of the program.
â€œOur feedback has been very positive as the children look forward to coming to â€˜schoolâ€™ each week,â€ said Paulette Oâ€™Brien, teacher of the Learn and Play groups. â€œThis is their first exposure to a classroom setting and routine and itâ€™s amazing to see their interest and grasp concepts at such a young age.â€
For more information on the program, please contact: [email protected]