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Edward Street Partnerships: Playgroups offered by the Worcester Family Partnership support young families

Tuesday, October 4, 2022

For parents and caregivers who are new to Worcester or feel isolated while working from home, caring for young children can be a lonely experience.

But meaningful, lasting connections are made at Playgroups offered by the Worcester Family Partnership.

Bringing families together. Enhancing child development

For families who aren’t enrolled in a childcare program, WFP Playgroups offer parents a sense of community, and help children gain social and classroom skills they’ll need in elementary school.

Free to all Worcester families with children ages 0-5, Playgroups are held weekday mornings, Wednesday evenings, and Saturday mornings in the summer. Pre-registration is not typically required.

Each Playgroup begins with a half hour of free play, so children can get acclimated. Then staff lead activities like  storytime, singing, and arts and crafts.

The simple act of getting together is critical—especially now, says WFP Coordinator Beth Vietze.

“Children who are 2-3 years old have lived their entire lives in lockdown,” she says. “Social interactions are a skill that all of us need to practice again, but they have less experience than older children and adults.”

Positive playtime for children. Resources and guidance for new parents

At Playgroups, parents are responsible for their own children but also interact with other parents and enjoy support from WFP staff.

“Sometimes they don’t have a question ‘in capital letters’ but they’re wondering, ‘Is what I’m trying to do normal?’,” says Vietze. “Being able to talk to other parents and experienced staff can be profoundly helpful.”

When staff are concerned a child may have a developmental issue, they connect parents to “ages and stages” screenings and other resources, and provide useful activities children can do at home.

Rooting out social isolation through community and new friendships

There’s something old school about Worcester’s Playgroups experience, says Vietze. Playgroups harken back to an era of greater neighborhood interaction among families.

“Years ago there used to be lots of informal playgroups in neighborhoods, particularly when many moms were staying at home,” she says. “We try to build community among young families in Worcester so they have people to turn to for support.”

What starts as a Playgroup connection often grows into something more. Families get together for playdates and birthday parties, and young children become friends when they meet again in kindergarten and elementary school.

All are welcome! Playgroups can be found across the city for children 0-5 years old

WFP Playgroups serve about one hundred families a week. Each site is staffed by a Spanish-speaking staff person, and the Islamic Center includes an Arabic-speaking staff member.

  • Monday-Friday 9:30-11 AM at the Worcester Family Partnership, 130 Leeds St. (English- and Spanish-speaking staff)
  • Tuesdays 12-2 PM at the Worcester Islamic Center, Mountain St. (English-, Arabic-, and Spanish-speaking staff)
  • Wednesdays 10-11:30 AM at the Worcester Family Resource Center, 20 Cedar St in the Carriage House (English- and Spanish-speaking staff)
  • Wednesdays 5:30-7:00 PM at the Worcester Family Partnership, 130 Leeds St. (English-speaking staff)
  • Thursdays 9:45-11:30 AM at Main South CDC, in cooperation with WAMS. Lunch is included. This group focuses on School Readiness skills (English- and Spanish-speaking staff)
  • Saturdays 9:30-10:30 AM (summer months only) at REC's University Park Farmers Market (English- and Spanish-speaking staff)

For more information about WFP Playgroups, visit https://worcesterschools.org/about/community-partnerships/worcester-family-partnership or call 508-799-3136.

Playgroups plus a whole lot more. Support comes in many forms at WFP

Playgroups are just one aspect of Worcester Family Partnership. WFP also offers monthly parenting workshops and family-friendly activities.

ParentChild+, another WFP program, conducts home visits for families with children aged 2-4 years and also visits family childcare programs. Educational information and other resources are provided to parents. Children are given educational games and toys.

WFP is made possible by a grant from the Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care to the Worcester Public Schools, and has many collaborations across the city, including Edward Street.

“Edward Street is a great supporter,” says Vietze. “They’re focused on developing a continuum of early childhood services and we’re part of that continuum.”