Free play groups help children prepare for school

Kevin Nicholas, the parish’s director of federal programs, with a play group.

They’re called play groups, but it’s a significant opportunity for youngsters and their parents or caregivers to get ready for school.

“The primary reason we have play groups is to afford parent support in obtaining the best education for their children, and provide the tools they need in preparation for school,” said Kevin Nicholas, St. Charles Parish’s director of federal programs. “We are primarily serving children and parents not in a formal pre-kindergarten setting.”

Children in these groups range in age from birth to age 4.

In its 17th year, the program is kicking up for this school year at the school district’s elementary schools: Allemands, Luling, New Sarpy, Norco, Mimosa Park and St. Rose.

Play groups are resuming this week.

A child in one of the many activities with the play groups.

The need to be prepared for school is so important to St. Charles Parish Public Schools that Nicholas said they’re also working on getting the Learn With Us Bus on the road to bring a play group to those who can’t come to school.

The “play center on wheels” will reach another 20 children. Once completed, every Friday it will hit the road visiting communities offering playgroup sessions.

“Family centers and play groups support parents in their efforts to obtain the best education for their children,” he said. “Play groups are both a learning and support opportunity for parents and a ‘social’ playtime for children ages birth to five years old who are not attending formal preschools.”

The activities mean families learn how to help their children succeed in subjects like Eureka Math and reading, homework, as well as behavior and discipline.

Sharon Woolf, Title 1 coordinator, said the play groups concept originated with two schools in the parish nearly 17 years ago. An estimated 20 children participated then, and it’s grown to all six public elementary schools for an estimated 120 children.

Each group averages five to 20 students.

The district has been recognized nationally for its use of play groups to aid early learning, Woolf said.

“We are primarily serving children and parents not in a formal pre-kindergarten setting.”  — Kevin Nicholas

Play groups, which are voluntary, are hosted in the Title I Family Centers by the Family Literacy Teachers.

Woolfe said play groups are working.

“We see better readiness for kindergarten,” she said. “They can be successful from Day One in kindergarten.”

Nicholas added, “We also see that parents that come to the play groups with their two- or three-year-olds are getting information about our preschool programs, and are more likely to our programs. A lot of times, parents don’t realize the preschool programs are available. We can steer them in that direction.”

As family gather at Family Centers again this school year, he said the most important aspect of them is “Play groups have been and, continue to be, a positive experience for children and their parents.”

Play groups start 10 – 11 a.m. Sept. 2

  • Mimosa Park Elementary – Monday
  • Luling and St. Rose Elementary – Tuesday
  • Allemands and New Sarpy Elementary – Wednesday
  • Luling and and Norco Elementary – Thursday


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