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Thursday
October 17th, 2019

liberal learn and play courtesy photo This young lady takes part in a Learn and Play activity at a past Learn and Play event. The program is popular in Liberal and has been part of the community for a handful of years. Courtesy photoELLY GRIMM • Leader & Times

 

Finding activities for young toddlers and their parents can be a challenge in the Southwest Kansas area, but thanks to the Russell Child Development Center (RCDC) in Garden City, Liberal has a group to help with just that. 

Learn and Play is a program funded through RCDC that has been available in the area for a handful of years now. The Liberal group meets every Friday at First Baptist Church from 10 to 11:30 a.m. 

“It's a play group and it's also a child-parent activity time that focuses on all the different developmental domains for children ages 0 to 5 years old and also on early literacy,” Coordinator Marilyn Svaty said. “It's open to everyone in the community and it's a free program. It started with the Liberal Area Coalition for Families and the funds come from the tobacco grant given to RCDC, so the program was actually thought of by the RCDC staff and they wanted to be sure to include time for parents to be involved in their children's education at that stage.”

Overall, Svaty said, the program is great for everyone involved. 

“What's exciting is how we do a few different screenings with the kiddos a couple times a year and just through that, RCDC has been able to see how much of an impact there is from having the parents involved and also seeing the children's progress with everything, which is great,” Svaty said. “I have noticed there's a lot of parents using that time to interact with other parents and they have that chance to socialize. For a lot of stay-at-home parents sometimes there's not a lot of that interaction with other parents, so this allows that chance to socialize and get out for a little while. It's not a benefit just for the kiddos but also for the parents. I know there are a lot of concerns from parents about their kiddos coming out and being able to socialize properly with other children and also just being used to being around other children and learning some of those basic skills like sharing and things like that. And numbers-wise, it's actually stayed pretty consistent throughout the time I've been involved with it, there haven't really been a lot of huge changes. RCDC has its own criteria for what all would need to be addressed, like arts and crafts or fine motor activities or something sensory-related for the little ones to develop and explore. As far as the people who attend, we typically 10 to 15 children and their parents who come each time.”

Svaty added she hopes to see growth with the program in the future, both with attendance and overall community involvement. 

“We'd love to see more community involvement and more people come out. We had dental health month and we had a lot of involvement around that time from the local dentists' office and other health care providers,” Svaty said. “We'd also love to see more people and their little ones come and participate, it is free for everyone and open to everyone, we'd love to see higher numbers and more people coming. It's very easy, they would just need to get ahold of me at 620-655-8836 and we're open to working with anyone who would want to help support everything we're doing.”

Svaty again emphasized the socialization aspect of the program and its benefits. 

“I really think it's that socialization that's huge for both the children and the parents,” Svaty said. “There's also always something they'll get to take home after the morning's over like different activities or crafts, things like that. I really think it's great to be able to get the children out of the house to learn about interacting with their peers, especially when they're this young. I would like to emphasize again how this is a free program for the community and it's for children ages 0 to 5 years old and their parents. It's a great program and I think everyone who comes and participates will love being part of it.”


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