FORT DRUM, N.Y. (May 25, 2021) -- With the opening of the Soldier and Family Readiness Division’s Enrichment Center, the New Parent Support Program and the Exceptional Family Member Program have a space of their own to host weekly playgroups at Fort Drum.
The playgroups were on pause during the COVID-19 pandemic, but they had previously been available at various locations, such as Oates Overview Lodge or a community center.
The Enrichment Center has a safe, inviting play area with educational toys and a team of Family Advocacy Program educators, social workers and registered nurses ready to assist.
Rosa Torres, RN, said that the NSPS playgroup helps children ages 3 and younger develop early communication and social skills.
“It’s a lesson in sharing and how to play with other children,” she said. “They learn how to follow a routine, because the playgroup establishes a routine for them.”
That routine includes play time, clean-up time and circle time – where everyone huddles around to sing their favorite songs.
Laura McPherson, social worker, said that the focus of the playgroups is on the parents as much as the children.
“This gives us an opportunity to educate parents on the importance of play and what kind of skills kids are learning while they play,” McPherson said. “They might not see that what a child is playing with is working their fine motor skills. Or, a parent might think, ‘My kid doesn’t play with anyone.’ Well, they are not going to play with anybody at this age. They’re going to play near each other, but not with each other. So we can reassure the parent that this is completely normal.”
McPherson said that the staff isn’t there to judge or criticize someone’s parenting skills, but quite the opposite.
“Parenting can be really stressful, and we want to take the time to point out all of those positive things and victories they have made,” she said.
Torres said that sometimes parents become dejected whenever they have to say no to their children
“You have to say no to teach them what is right,” she said. “Saying no is a positive thing, and I try to encourage parents to look at what they are doing as positive.”
The center also features a classroom where FAP educators can host parenting workshops. Mandy Mason, acting Family Advocacy Program manager, said that FAP has partnered with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Jefferson County for a series of healthy cooking classes. One of those will be scheduled in conjunction with the playgroup so parents can learn more about nutritious snacks.
McPherson said that they take every opportunity to inform family members about their program, and the resources available to parents on post and in the local area.
“We have experience, education and resources specifically for military families,” she said. “Also, the New Parent Support Program is available at every installation. So if somebody is moving and wants to continue with the program, we can connect them with that person at their next duty station so we can hopefully make it a smoother transition for them.”
The NPSP playgroups are available from 10 a.m. to noon, Tuesdays and Thursdays, and an Exceptional Family Member Program playgroup is available from 10 to 11:30 a.m. Wednesdays.
The playgroups are free, and registration is capped at 10 children. To register for the NPSP playgroup, call (315) 772-0748. To register for the EFMP playgroup, call (315) 772-5476. The SFRD Enrichment Center is located in Bldg. 10262 on 4th Armored Division Drive.