PAT recruiting new families
Parents as Teachers has openings for home visits
When two Eudora toddlers and their mother showed up for the Parents as Teachers playgroup Monday morning, they found a large space full of toys and activity centers, made possible by a Nottingham Elementary School classroom left open when third-graders moved out of the building. Parent educator Tracey Waldeier is hoping the newly-acquired spacious accommodations will help draw families back to Parents as Teachers.
The parent-child program had been on hiatus since parent educator Lisa Quackenbush left last school year. But now that Waldeier is in Eudora beginning this school year, she's trying to rebuild the number of families involved in PAT programs.
Parents who were used to long waiting lists to be a part of the program "don't realize there are openings now," Waldeier said.
Although eight families were currently participating, Waldeier said the goal was to make that number 25. The programs and activities PAT currently offers are a parent-child playgroups and home visits.
The playgroup, which runs each Monday from 9 to 10 a.m. and each Friday from 9 to 11 a.m., is open to any family living in Eudora USD 491 and doesn't require a sign-up. The PAT program is for infants through 3-year-olds, but Waldeier said siblings were welcome at the playgroups.
Waldeier said the play groups, which are in PAT's new, large classroom, gave the children, many of whom are not in day care, the chance to interact with other children through activities she organizes and through informal play. Unlike other playgroups, the parents stay with the children, which Waldeier said gave parents a chance to see their kids in action.
"Everybody watches how everybody else plays with their kids," Waldeier said. "When you drop them off, you don't see them interact."
The other aspect to PAT is home visits, which do require sign-up. Waldeier said she usually visited a home about once a month, spending time with expectant parents or the parents and their children up to age 3. In addition to developmental screenings, the home visits allow parents to ask Waldeier questions about their child's development.
Also, Waldeier can give parents ideas of different activities to do with their children as well as provide neuroscience research explaining how their children are learning.
Parents as Teachers is for infants through 3-year-olds because research showed that was when vital learning occurred, Waldeier said.
"Your baby was born ready to learn, and parents are the first teachers," she said.
Through the play groups and other gatherings at Nottingham, Waldeier said PAT got parents used to being in the school, a trend she hoped continued as their children outgrew Parents as Teachers and transitioned to elementary school.
"I think it's a good first start to get them in now," she said. "If we get them in now, hopefully they'll stay."
In addition to the twice-weekly playgroups, parents and caregivers will have another chance to visit Nottingham with a PAT gathering from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Oct. 21. Waldeier said the fall fellowship meeting, at which children are encouraged to dress in costume, would include discussions for parents about the importance of pretend play, as well as children's activities encouraging pretend play.
Yet one of the most important role Parents as Teachers played, Waldeier said, was to reinforce a parent's role as a teacher.
"Just to give them a pat on the back for being the first teacher -- that's a hard job," she said.