Family Nurturing Center: Free Parent-Child Playgroups in Boston
Toddlers thrive on structure and routine, but it can be hard to work circle time and play stations into life at home. Family Nurturing Center’s (FNC) free Parent-Child Playgroups in Boston neighborhoods provide an opportunity for stay-at-homers to experience Early Childhood education with their little ones. Children explore new toys and make friends under the guidance of Early Childhood specialists, while parents and caregivers get support for all of the specific challenges of caring for a one-to-five year old.
I have been taking my two-year-old to a Family Nurturing Center Parent-Child Playgroup in Roslindale for a little over a year now. Walking into the community center at Stonybrook Commons, where the group meets, is like walking into a well-funded daycare. The community center playroom has a play kitchen, dress-up clothes for pretend play, puzzles, a variety of different blocks, books, musical instruments, and my son’s all-time favorite: a bin full of cars, trucks and fire engines.
The playgroup begins with about 45 minutes of free play, which gives children time to explore the different toys all the while learning social and emotional skills as they jostle to figure out whose turn it is to play with the baby doll. At the end of the free play period, the children are expected to help with clean-up before transitioning into circle time. The playgroup leader reads a story and leads caregivers and children in several songs before breaking out the big parachute for the real circle time fun. After circle time, the children all file into the bathroom to wash their hands and then sit down in child-sized furniture for a snack provided by the Family Nurturing Center. After snack, the children have more time for free play, plus the opportunity to play with ride-on toys, play dough or do art projects.
The kids aren’t the only ones who benefit from the playgroups. While the children are eating snack, the facilitator leads the grown-ups in a discussion of child development, often by asking us to share questions and concerns we’ve had with our own children. Occasionally the FNC will bring in additional experts for presentations on topics like potty training or language development and school readiness.
While the playgroups are dubbed “Parent-Child” they are also open to nannies and other non-parent caregivers of small children, so working parents can also take advantage of the opportunity for structure and support. Each play group has an age-range associated with it (1-3 for the Roslindale groups and 1-5 for the Allston-Brighton Indoor Summer playgroup), but younger siblings or nanny-share pals are welcome. FNC runs separate Parent-Baby playgroups for the pre-walking crowd.
I freely admit to stealing the playgroup’s model for transitions for use in my home. We sing the “five more minutes” and “clean-up” songs several times a day, and my two-year-old reliably cleans up all his toys before naptime and bedtime. Watching him sit still next to me and participate in circle time makes me feel more confident that he will have the skills he needs when the time comes for him to enroll in daycare or preschool. My son and I have both made friends with people in our communities and those friendships are as much a source of support as the FNC staff.