Free play at library gets kids ready for kindergarten

Funding: Federal grant provides children’s museum to expand Play to Learn program

of the HeraldJanuary 15, 2014 

When Tim Wadham peaked in at the Puyallup Public Library’s north meeting room, he couldn’t believe his eyes. Dozens of young children were playing, interacting with others and participating in activities.

Wadham, the director of the library, welcomed the Play to Learn program from the Children’s Museum of Tacoma on Jan. 7. The program gives children younger than 6 and their caregivers opportunity to learn through activities.

“I am really thrilled to be partnering with the Children’s Museum of Tacoma,” Wadham said. “The library and museum need to be working together. We have common goals.”

Play to Learn launched in fall 2008. It’s now in 15 Pierce County locations.

“Our community Play to Learn is free and is drop-in, meaning families don’t have to register,” said Alyssa Tongue, learning experiences director for the children’s museum. “They can come to one site or as many sites that fit within their week. The expectation is that adults and children will be fully interacting together through play, art, science and music.”

Tanya Andrews, executive director of the Children’s Museum of Tacoma, said the purpose is to help children transition into kindergarten.

“(The program) encourages caregivers that play is the natural way to learn,” Andrews said. “It’s a wonderful gift from kids, if we are more in-tuned with them. If we give them the right props, tools and activities, they will learn.”

Andrews said the museum received a $41,527 grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Sciences to expand the program throughout Pierce County. The grant enabled the launch of the Puyallup library site. Others include schools, the Pierce County Library System and Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

Last week, more than 60 children and adults filled the half-room at the Puyallup Public Library.

“Today’s launch was one of the most successful in Play to Learn history,” Andrews said. “We are immensely pleased with the turnout.”

Each week will center on a theme. The 1 1/2-hour program includes free play during the first 30 minutes, and then children and adults form a circle where Cheryl Jones, the Play to Learn facilitator, leads songs.

Jones, a mother and grandmother, said she felt privileged to be part of the program.

“For me, I’m really attracted to that connection with the caregivers, and just being a listening ear and giving them the insight that play is learning, and it can be a joyful experience,” Jones said.

Brent Roselle, 36, a firefighter at Central Pierce Fire and Rescue, took his 1-year-old son, Caleb, to the program for the first time last week.

“This is great for Caleb,” Roselle said. “He is running all around. This is good interaction for him with other kids.”

Amy Goldberg, a mother of three, has taken her children since the program began in 2008. She said her two oldest children are open to new experiences due to the exposure of other kids. Goldberg also appreciates the different activities that are offered.

“It’s good for them to have the sensory experience and the art,” she said.

If you go

Play to Learn will be offered at the Puyallup Public Library from 10 to 11:30 a.m. on Tuesdays through March 25. No session will be held Feb. 11. For more information, call the Children’s Museum of Tacoma at 253-627-6031 or visit www.playtacoma.org.

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