As our Play To Learn program runs on a school year schedule, we just wrapped up our spring semester and are launching our summer groups with about 30 families participating.
This year so far, a total of 204 families graduated from Play To Learn or an extension class through YMCA, which is a combination of Play To Learn and YMCA’s Early Learning Readiness program.
Through Play To Learn, not only did young children leave with new skills but parents learned how to foster their child’s optimal development at home. Parents and children attended classes together with the following themes:
• Social skills
• Gross motor skills
• Fine motor skills
• Language Development
• Emotional regulation skills
• Emerging Literacy
“Honestly, this program did help my daughter a lot. My children are naturally very shy and now my daughter is less introverted and more social. I really did see a huge change in my daughter and I highly recommend the class. The reason I never missed a class is because I could tell my daughter loved being there and benefited greatly.”
Attendees also learned digital literacy skills by practicing various tasks and using the pre-loaded educational apps on the Samsung tablets provided by United Way for Greater Austin. It is important to bridge the “digital divide” between low-income families and their more affluent peers now more than ever. Internet access is no longer a luxury but a necessity for individuals to complete homework, fill out job and college applications, find resources and stay connected to the outside world (Mashable, 2013).
“I have learned to dedicate more time to him and to be more patient. I have learned to search to find ways to help my child understand concepts and ideas better. I have learned to not say no; instead I have found alternative ways to redirect Axel so he will learn the correct way to do things.”
This year, Play To Learn was financially supported by the City of Austin, the Housing Authority of the City of Austin (HACA), the Tapestry Foundation, Applied Materials, Samsung and the Stumberg family. Volunteers from National Instruments, Kerbey Lane Cafe, Advisory Board Company, GM, Texas Mutual and numerous individual volunteers made the program possible by assembling take home bags and programming tablets. Implementing partners include KLRU, Camp Fire Central Texas, YMCA of Austin and LTlov.
United Way for Greater Austin’s partnership with the Austin Public Library made it possible to bring in youth librarians to each of the Play To Learn groups to read stories and tell families about the many free resources and activities the libraries offer.
UWATX also formed a new partnership this spring with Austin Travis County Integral Care’s First Steps program. All of our Play To Learn families in the spring (and moving forward) are offered free developmental screenings and service referrals from these trained therapists.
After families graduated from the spring session, we asked parents about their experiences with Play To Learn.
Tell me some of the best things you learned as a parent through PTL.
“I am very happy with the progress and development I have witnessed in my child. Now she sings, seeks playmates outside and is overall happier.” –Maria R.
“I learned to read to her—I didn’t used to do this.” –Edith
“I learned that parents need to have separate time with each child. This is especially important in my family since Camilo has older siblings. I also learned that parents have to try their best to not say “no,” and to instead redirect the child in a positive way with positive reinforcement.” –Maria O.
“I have learned to dedicate more time to him and to be more patient. I have learned to search to find ways to help my child understand concepts and ideas better. I have learned to not say no; instead I have found alternative ways to redirect Axel so he will learn the correct way to do things. Since the PTL program, Axel and I have developed a routine reading time when we arrive home.” –Lisandra
Tell me some of the changes you’ve seen in your child since enrolling in the program.
“She has learned her colors and to count. She used to sing before, but now when she sings she seems more enthusiastic. She jumps while she sings and is very into it. I have seen such a positive change in her. Although she has siblings, this program gave her the chance to interact with children her own age.” –Maria R.
“Now she asks to play and be around more children, which she never used to do in the past. She used to not socialize.” –Edith
“Now he loves books and to read. He has learned to share more with other toddlers, which he never did before. He is learning to count. He sings the songs we learned in class and is happy doing so.” –Maria O.
“Now we have routines in our houses with several activities, such as reading. Axel now enjoys playing more with things that will help him develop his motor and play skills. Axel looks for more interesting and stimulating games to play in class that are also educational. Before he did not like to play educational games.” –Lisandra
How did you benefit and use the Play To Learn take home bags?
“I began to read the books with my child. My child still paints and draws with materials that were sent home with us. I have since bought her more books. We are still using the bags. I wish my other children could have been in this program because it truly is great.” –Maria R.
“Once I received the take home bags, I started to read to my daughter and she began to use the art supplies. It was good because instead of coming home and watching television, my daughter would open up the bag and practice what we had learned that week.” –Edith
“The materials, pages, colors and art supplies have helped because I have other kids too and it provides us with family time to learn and play together as a unit.” –Maria O.
“Axel was very interested in the materials in the bag. It helps him with his development to draw and learn while drawing. We benefited from the books too and now read together daily.” –Lisandra
What kinds of things will you continue to do with your child now that you have completed this program?
“My child still uses the tablet. She sings and counts to me. She used to not do that. For example, now when we climb stairs she starts counting the stairs out loud as we go. She started saying words in English which she used to not do.” –Maria R.
“I will continue to read to her, play games on the tablet and sing songs together that we learned during the course.” –Edith
“Spend quality time with him alone, let him play what he is interested in, keep him company and read to him very often.” –Maria O.
“I will continue to use all I learned. Read to him at night, draw with him and play with him. He will continue to play educational games on the tablet, which he loves.” –Lisandra
What would you tell another parent thinking of enrolling in the program?
“Yes, definitely yes. Honestly, this program did help my daughter a lot. My children are naturally very shy and now my daughter is less introverted and more social. I really did see a huge change in my daughter and I highly recommend the class. The reason I never missed a class is because I could tell my daughter loved being there and benefited greatly.” –Maria R.
“You should do it. It is an amazing class for toddlers. We loved the class because the teachers were very, very patient and always happy. I think the children really liked that about them.” –Edith
“I highly recommend this. It is a different experience to spend so much time with your child in a learning setting because most other programs separate the adult from the child. It is a different experience in a great way.” –Maria O.
“The Spanish program helped us. There were lots of other children in the class and parents that I could relate to. It was a great experience. Any parent with a young child should do this and sign up before the child goes to school.” –Lisandra