By Avra Sullivan
The addition of a child is a wondrous event that also brings an array of questions and concerns no matter how well-prepared parents may think they are. The Family Center of Queen Anne’s County is a valuable resource to help families navigate these times. Focused on the various developmental stages of children from birth to age 3, the center uses a “parents helping parents” model along with trained child development specialists.
Play groups encourage socialization between children, and parenting groups create peer support amongst the adults. The center is equipped with three playrooms, each designed around a primary stage of in child’s development. “Babyland” is for infants and focuses on early motor skills development. “Tweeny Town” is for children between infant and toddler ages who are beginning to walk and increase their mobility. The older two- and three-year-old room encourages the newly independent child to explore, play and learn.
Dorothy Carpenter, the center’s coordinator, explains the importance of early development, especially in relation to preparing a child for school. “School readiness really starts at birth and early infancy,” she says. “Studies have shown a strong correlation between a baby’s ability to crawl and develop core body strength, and their future ability to sit at a desk in school, even affecting their handwriting.” Dorothy goes on to explain that in 2000, less than half the children enrolled in kindergarten possessed the skills they needed. Today, over 80% are ready. “A child’s brain is 90% developed by the age of 5. If early skills are lacking, it can be very difficult for the child to catch up.” Home visitation and developmental assessments are available, and the Center can assist with transportation if needed.
The Family Center understands that for the child to flourish, the family also must flourish. In addition to the curriculum for children, the Center offers programs for parents such as job readiness classes, focusing on résumé writing, interview skills and job placement. Parents can enroll in high school GED classes at the center and take online college courses or obtain assistance with paperwork and enrollment procedures to colleges. Cooking workshops are available using fresh vegetables and herbs from the center’s garden, and field trips offer additional educational experiences the family can enjoy together.
The center is open to anyone with infants through age 3. Wednesdays are open playgroups, and all are welcome to meet the staff, see the facility and explore the many programs available. Interested parents also call for an appointment to tour the Center and to discuss which programs may be most beneficial to them and their family. For more information, call 410-438-3182 or visit their website at www.qacps.k12.md.us/judy.