NEWS | July 12, 2007

New location gives Lackland toddlers more playtime opportunities

By Tony Perez 37th Training Wing Public Affairs Office

It seems that children never need an excuse to play or explore, but rather a place to do so. Sometimes children need a larger place to expand their imaginations.

The Children's Playgroup which meets from 9:30-11:30 a.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and provides a great atmosphere for children between the ages of 0-3, recently moved into the old youth center, Bldg. 8205, giving the group much more room to host their activities.

"Actually, the playgroup started almost six years ago, but we were in the (Child Development Center) next door and we just didn't have any room for expansion," said Family Advocacy Outreach Manager Lois VanSlyke.

Playgroup concentrates on developing children's social interaction and motor skills. There is no preregistration or signup necessary to join. Playgroup is free to all who participate.

"It gets my child a chance to do arts and crafts with kids her own age and gives me a social outlet where I can visit with other moms," said Karen Calnicean.

"We've been coming to Playgroup since they had it at the old facility," said Nazneen Momna. "I love it here. There is a lot more space to roam around and a lot more for the kids to do, and Zahira really enjoys coming here."

Playgroup has approximately 25 families that participate on an on-and-off basis.

"It's our first time actually, but (my daughter) is having fun and that's all I really care about," said Wendy Eubanks. "It's a different place for Jamie Lynn to play with different toys and different kids."

"It has just grown by leaps and bounds since we moved here," Ms. VanSlyke said. "We have just all kinds of new people because the moms are spreading word."

Ms. VanSlyke not only runs Children's Playgroup, but she also contacts families both on base and within the city to let them know about ongoing activities for families with small children.

While Playgroup is looking to add organized activities in the future, most events are currently free style.

Because of the young ages of some of the children in Playgroup, most of the time is free play. Children have the freedom to go to whatever station they want at any time for as long as they want.

Playgroup features numerous activity stations aimed to captivate children with all different tastes. There is a kitchen area equipped with grocery items and pots and pans; a costume area so that the girls can pretend they are getting dressed up and going out for a fancy night at the town; a LEGOs area; a construction area where you could find the boys playing with plastic wrenches; and an arts and crafts area.

There is also a playground outside and an indoor area with a slide and a little fort.

Reginald Mann Jr. "R.J." had just finished a painting and was very eager to show anyone who was interested his work of art.

"My mom wrote my name on the top and I painted it and made the colors go together and I just finished it," said R.J.

R.J. will be starting pre-kindergarten in August and his mother, Natasha Mann, feels that Playgroup is a great way to give R.J. a chance to interact with other kids before school starts.

"He's an only child so most of the time he wants to play with me," said Ms. Mann. "I think Playgroup is a great way to get him to interact with kids his age."