Teaching parents how to play

Published 12:00 am Sunday, May 9, 1999

DEBORAH CORRAO / L’Observateur / May 9, 1999

We all know how important education is to our children’s lives. But Becky Weber, family literacy teacher, says play can be just as important – not only in the development of social skills but also as an educational experience.

“I help teach parents how to play,” says Weber. “Play is important todevelopment and growing up. It also gets the parents more involved intheir children’s lives.”Once a week Weber holds a playgroup for preschool children at the Parent Center located at Norco Elementary School. It’s one of the services of afledgling program made possible by Title I funds and is available to all families on the east bank of St. Charles Parish. A similar program on thewest bank is located at Luling Elementary School.

The playgroup, open to children from 0-5 and their parents, is a place where moms and dads can not only learn how to play with their children but also learn how to make creative and educational toys from common household objects. The focus of the group is to get children as well asparents to use imagination and creativity during playtime.

On Friday mornings between 8 and 12 children gather with parents for their special time at the Parent Center.

“Everything we do here they can do at home,” says Weber. “I never suggestthat parents buy toys. I just tell them to keep good garbage.””Good garbage” consists of things like cereal boxes, pieces of yarn and food items like pasta and beans.

One morning Weber guides the children through the construction of a tambourine, using paper plates and beans. Children color the paper plateswith the assistance of their parents, then staple two plates together and fill with the beans.

“The more opportunities these children have to work with crayons, scissors and glue, the more they’ll know how to use them correctly,” says Weber. “They’ll be more comfortable when they start school.”The project doesn’t end there.

Using familiar nursery rhyme songs, Weber leads them through a dance in which they use their newly-created musical instruments.

“Rhythm and rhyme increase reading,” she says to parents who dance along with their children.

Weber uses another rhyming book to lead the children through another activity using their tambourines.

“I do emphasize reading to children,” she says.”If you’re part of a child’slife you will read to them and do nursery rhymes. I recommend booksbecause they are available at public libraries, and parents do not have to spend money for them.”As the children play, Weber gives parents little tips on things they can do at home to reinforce skills learned in the playgroup.

When playtime is over children are served refreshments and parents are allowed to browse through an assortment of books, puzzles, games and other learning tools which are available for checkout by parents of children in kindergarten through third grade.

Also available are computers where parents can search the internet for parenting advice. Monthly workshops featuring guest speakers are offeredto parents throughout the school year.

The Parent Center hosted a Fun Fair this week to promote reading. If astudent donated a book to the fair he received a ticket good toward the “purchase” of another book.

Later this month children can participate in a “Splash Day.” Recently theytook a field trip to Papa John’s Pizza in Destrehan.

As part of her responsibilities Weber also goes out into the community to reach children. She holds playgroups at Greater Good Hope Baptist Churchand at Kiddie Kollege daycare center. She also makes home visits to families referred to her by a teacher or principal.

“Some parents don’t have experience in helping their children, but they’re willing to learn,” says Weber. “Loving parents give me hope. I let themknow I’m not there to interfere but to help.”Julie Dupepe’s daughter, Chelsae, 2, attends the playgroup.

“She doesn’t have any other chances to be with other children,” says Dupepe. “This is our one outing a week to be around other people.”Chelsae, once shy around the others in the group, is now more eager to interact with the other children.

“It’s a way to make connections and build friendships,” Weber says. “Itlessens their fear of school because they’re getting to know some of the children they will be going to school with.”Weber’s two children, Emily, 4, and Jace, 3, take part in the weekly playgroups.

“Parents get to see firsthand that I go through the same things as they do,” she says.

Another of Weber’s children, Hannah, a student at Norco Elementary, comes in to help with the playgroup as a way to earn Beta Club service hours.

Weber says the experience is beneficial to older students as well because they learn how to nurture the younger ones.

The program has been so well-received that it has been funded again for the 1999-2000 school year.

“It’s sort of fumbled and found its way,” says Darla Lee, Parent Center coordinator. “It’s been a real learning experience for us, too.”Weber and Lee wrote the proposal for the program and presented it to the St. Charles Parish School Board. Because it is so new, Weber has basicallywritten her own job description. She is working now on proposals to speakabout the program at conferences in New Orleans and San Antonio.

If you’re interested in services provided by the Parent Center, you can call the center at 764-8933 or Norco Elementary at 764-7079 during school hours.Back to Top

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