By Caroline GotlerApril 17, 2009
Parents of young children often have a lot on their plate - in between diaper changes, errands, work or military training, it can be difficult to find a spare moment to focus on their child's development. That's why Fort Benning's New Parent Support Program has launched a new playgroup to give parents of children 3 and younger time to interact and connect with their children. The playgroup will be an opportunity for parents to spend time with their children outside of the distractions of home and work, said Elizabeth Owen, a registered nurse and home visitor with the New Parent Support Program. "A lot of times, in our fast-paced world we're so busy doing other things that we don't have time to focus on our kids," she said. "Parents may not have time to work with them on their motor skills and development." Half of each playgroup meeting is devoted to age-appropriate structured activities to help children develop their motor skills and intellectual and social development, Owen said, such as songs, rhymes, coloring and building blocks. The second half of each meeting is free time for parents and children to interact. "The overall goal is to increase the chance for all children in this community to have a healthy start to life," said Sherry Daniels, a registered nurse and New Parent Support Program home visitor. Because the playgroup's facilitators are all registered nurses, they are well-equipped to offer parents feedback about their child's development, Daniels said, and will provide suggestions for ways parents can help advance their child's progress. While the playgroup's focus is on fostering positive interaction between parents and children, it is also a chance for parents to interact with each other, which is especially important on a military installation, Daniels said. "Some of the new moms I've talked to only have one or two friends," she said. "If you only have one or two people to talk to, you can burn out easily. And if they're not around, you're out of luck. So with the playgroup, we want to help new parents get out, too." Though many playgroups are primarily attended by mothers, Daniels and Owen both encouraged fathers to attend as well. "I think that too often we don't take the time to focus on the dads," Owen said. "It's just as important for the dads to have that opportunity to spend with their kids." The playgroup meets from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. the first and third Thursday of each month in Building 9608 in Bouton Heights. For more information, call 706-545-9358 or 706-626-2599.