The Peninsula School District recently teamed up with the Children’s Museum of Tacoma in a new no-cost program for Key Peninsula preschoolers and their parents or adult caregivers.

Called Play to Learn, it takes place every Monday, 10–11:30 a.m., at the Key Peninsula Civic Center.

It’s an opportunity for parents to get down on the floor and play with their kids, said Lisa Reaugh, assistant director of student services for PSD.

The program receives federal funding through Title 1 and LAP, Reaugh said, which makes it free to families.

“We want families and kids to play together and talk and share and learn things,” she said. “It’s for kids birth to age 6. We just started it in February and we had about 20 families the first day.”

Research shows that there is “a huge gap in the experiences that Key Peninsula kids have before they start kindergarten compared to kids in Gig Harbor,” Reaugh said.

“So our goal is to provide as many high quality learning experiences for pre-school aged kids as possible here on the KP. We have room for lots of families,” she said.

Each session lasts an hour-and-a-half and includes a variety of activities like Legos, dolls, building things, and knocking them down and other fun things, she said.

“Then about half-way through the session everybody comes together and they do some singing and maybe a have a story or similar things that kids can enjoy. There’s always a monthly theme. In February the theme was dinosaurs,” Reaugh said.

The Play to Learn program is facilitated by Alyssa Tongue, learning experiences director for the Children’s Museum of Tacoma.

“It’s a playful early learning class for kids and their adult care givers,” Tongue said. “We’re honoring that play is the natural way that kids grow and learn and thrive. And we know that a child’s first teacher is their parent or their main care-provider during their day. So we’re helping to build that bond by giving them songs to sing that develop pre-literacy skills and counting up and down and things that encourage kids to be curious and explore things.”

It’s a great opportunity for little ones to get ready for school and also an opportunity for caregivers to step out of their home environment, Tongue said.

“We’re sort of telling them to leave all the laundry and dishes behind and engage with your child and play with your child and spend time together,” she said. “Play builds friendships, not just for the kids but also with the parents and other caregivers.”

KP resident Hannah Russell and her son Archer, 2, were among the participants in the very first session.

“I think this is a great program,” Russell said. “It helps kids like mine that are home all day to get out and play with other kids. It’s very well rounded. He had a great time with the blocks and singing and dancing and he absolutely loved the dinosaurs. It’s a great place for parents to come with their children and get to know other people in the community,” she said.

Each adult gets a book full of ideas and activities they can do at home between sessions, Reaugh said.

“We know that young children learn through play, which is the whole premise of Play to Learn. It’s a great experience for kids in the Key Peninsula where they can do activities that will help them be ready for school,” Reaugh said.

“We want parents and kids both to be ready, knowing letters and sounds and learning how to get along with others. It’s all about ready kids, ready parents, ready schools.”

“We had 20 families at our very first session in February –– which is just fabulous,” Tongue said. “And one family said that this is the best thing they’ve ever had at the civic center.”

For information on Play to Learn, visit playtacoma.org

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