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Beth Casey is a former public school educator who now teaches night classes at Beaufort County Community College.
Child Connections opens up new doors
Seventeen months ago, I experienced a career change. After nearly 13 years of teaching high school students, I became a first-time mother and stay-at-home mom. My days of creating lesson plans, grading papers, and rushing to complete a lesson before the next class change were replaced with feeding, diapering, playing, reading and learning how to stimulate my young daughter.
Within nine months of my time at home, I began to realize I had to seek the help of other at-home moms and caregivers in order to stay “connected” to the real world and in order to foster my daughter’s developmental and emotional growth. A family friend recommended that I visit my local Smart Start center and see what resources were available. Within days, I was in the center, registering my daughter for the birthday books program and perusing the toys, books and videos.
Located on the back side of Washington Square Mall, Child Connections and Beaufort/Hyde Partnership for Children (B/HPC) is a delightfully bright and colorful center that houses a toy lending library, cases of books and videos, die-cutting and laminating equipment and a scrap exchange area for crafts. The toy lending library consists of developmentally appropriate toys designed to stimulate a child’s curiosity, creativity and imagination. The toys are neatly packaged and labeled by age and number of pieces; whenever possible, suggestions for use are included with the toys. For me, the toy lending library offers my daughter a variety of new options in our home without cluttering our space or breaking our budget.
In addition to toys, Child Connections/BHPC loans books, videos and puppets to its young visitors. For adults, books on parenting, child care and child development are available for loan. Additionally, parents and caregivers are welcome to use the center’s extensive collection of die-cuts and donated scrap exchange items for creating exciting projects for children to assemble at home. A small fee does apply for the use of paper and lamination film, but caregivers may bring construction paper from home if they choose. I have personally donated to the scrap exchange, and as I look at the model projects that are on display in the center, I am inspired to create and to foster that love within my daughter.
Beyond toys, books, and crafts to stimulate young children, Child Connections/BHPC hosts a playgroup for children ages 2 to 5 and their caregivers on Thursdays at 10:30 a.m. This playgroup allows children who are cared for individually or in small numbers the opportunity to socialize with other children in a safe and nurturing environment. For caregivers, it offers a weekly outing at no cost, hosted by a well-trained, knowledgeable staff. While the focus of playgroup is play, the staff has hands-on activities planned to stimulate your child’s desire to create and explore. In about seven months, my daughter will be old enough to enjoy the weekly playgroup; I think there’s a good chance, however, that I might enjoy it more.
If you are the parent or caregiver of a child from birth to five years of age, you owe it to yourself and your child to visit the Child Connection/BHPC center in Washington. You can learn more about the functions of this Smart Start partnership at www.beaufortcountykids.org or by calling 252-975-4647.