What looks like just a fun sing-a-long of parents and toddlers on a sunny Tuesday morning is much more than just playtime. A monthly playgroup hosted by Grain Valley Parents as Teachers and Faith United Methodist Church seeks to serve both parents and children. But, Parents and Teachers is about more than just play.
Parents as Teachers (PAT) is a free early childhood family education program that assists and supports families in preparing their children for success in school and in life.
One of the cornerstone programs of the Parents as Teachers program are personal home visits by certified parent educators. In these monthly visits, parent educators visit families by appointment and focus on child development and parent interaction.
Parent Educators Pam Schmitt and Shannon Leap serve more than 60 families in the Grain Valley program.
“We answer questions that the parents may have, and bring a developmentally appropriate activity and handouts. It gives them a glimpse of what most kids are going through at that time. We also do development screenings,” Leap said.
While developmental screenings and activities are focused on the child, Parents as Teachers works to serve the entire family.
“That’s exactly what Parents as Teachers does. It’s not just focusing on the child. It’s focusing on the family,” Schmitt said.
Schmitt has been with Parents as Teachers for eleven years and has seen many changes in both the program and in the families she serves.
“The Parents as Teachers program used to be much more child-oriented, and now it is more family-oriented, which is good,” Schmitt said.
In addition to personal home visits, Parents as Teachers hosts a number of activities throughout the year for young children and their families, including a popular “Wiggle, Giggle, and Jiggle” event and the monthly playgroup held on the first Tuesday of each month at Faith United Methodist Church in Grain Valley.
While playgroups are often seen as a place to help wear a busy toddler out, Schmitt and Leap stress it is much more than that.
“It’s for both. It’s for the kiddos to comes out and interact with other children. It’s also for parents to be able to get out and connect with other parents. Here they get to talk, perhaps make friends, and have someone to go out with or talk to,” Schmitt said.
“I think this is a great place to model behavior with their peers, especially if they are not in school and have trouble with that. It’s a good place to learn important skills like taking turns and sharing,” Leap said.
Parent Alison Cook of Blue Springs and daughter Audrey, 3, attended the December 4th playgroup.
“It’s good to get out and do an activity and get out of the house. It helps the rest of the day go well,” Cook said.
Anna Grover of Grain Valley attended the playgroup with 3-year old son Everett.
“The interaction with other kids his age is important,” Grover said.
“Before I discovered playgroups, I went insane,” Grover joked. “It’s good for parents as well, to have interaction with other parents. It’s very beneficial.”
There is currently a wait list of approximately 30 families for the Grain Valley Parents as Teachers program.
For more information on Parents as Teachers, call 816-847-5011 or email Parent Educators Pam Schmitt, firstname.lastname@example.org, or Shannon Leap, email@example.com.
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