Columbia Star

1963        Celebrating 60 Years      2023

ThriveRichland play groups help parents get children ready for kindergarten

Parents are children’s first teachers. Reading aloud to children or even showing babies how to turn the pages of a book and look at the pictures can help develop the skills they will need to be ready for kindergarten.

ThriveRichland, Richland One’s birth-to-five initiative, aims to increase the percentage of children who enter kindergarten ready to learn.

“Studies show young children in less affluent homes hear 30 million fewer words than children who come from professional homes by the time they reach kindergarten,” said ThriveRichland Coordinator Dr. Cassandra Legette .“We want parents in all households to expose their kids to language and literacy at a young age. We want parents to build connections with their kids through play.”

ThriveRichland is holding monthly play groups as part of the first phase of services for families and the community that will be offered at the C.R. Neal Dream Center on Atlas Road through a partnership between Richland One and Bible Way Church of Atlas Road.

“These play groups give parents the tools they need to play with and read to their children at home,” said Dr. Legette.

Three different play groups are held at the center. The bilingual play group takes place every first and third Thursday of each month at 6 p.m. The English play group is every second and fourth Thursday of each month at 6 p.m. A play group for all children is every first Saturday of each month at noon.

ThriveRichland recently teamed up with Checker Yellow Cab to provide free transportation to the play groups.

“We have one family who would catch an Uber to come to our play groups,” said Dr. Legette. “But the mother was constantly deciding between paying for an Uber and getting diapers for her son.”

The play groups normally last an hour. The first 40 minutes are dedicated to letting children play with different toys and activities including a dollhouse, a kitchen set, building blocks, and an arts and crafts project. During this time, the ThriveRichland staff educates parents about the importance of talking to their children.

“Just having those conversations with your children helps with those early learning skills that helps prepare them for kindergarten,” said Dr. Legette.

After the children clean up from play time, Monica Hoyos, ThriveRichland’s bilingual parent and family engagement specialist, reads a story to the children that is tied to the arts and crafts project. This helps expose young children to language, storytelling, and books.

When the play group is over, every child goes home with snacks and a book. Families also will receive household products such as toilet paper and laundry detergent. This not only helps support families in need, but also thanks parents for bringing their children to the play groups.

“I enjoyed seeing my kids learn through play and get to know other kids their age,” said Breann Ballard, a mother of four who took her children to a recent ThriveRichland play group. “This is just another fun activity for them to do.”

Visit www.richland to learn more about ThriveRichland’s play groups.

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