By Ker'Shyra Myrick
The City of Tamarac (Fla.) Parks and Recreation Department recently added Start Smart’s new Move and Play program to its line-up of youth programming.
And parents throughout the community are thrilled they did.
“Many of the parents come to me and just thank me for offering this class,” said Amber Shaw, Recreation Programmer I for the City of Tamarac. “They always tell me how really, really shy their kids are the first day of class, and by the end of the class they’re not shy anymore. Or they are thanking me for helping their kids learn how to make friends.”
The Move and Play program is the newest addition to the National Alliance for Youth Sports’ array of Start Smart programs. It teaches children ages 2-3 the basic fine and gross motor skills necessary to create a solid foundation for future skills and activities that are part of everyday life.
“We always knew the program was going to be a success,” Shaw said. “This program has been beneficial for our organization because it brings the younger kids to the park to learn and gives them a sense of learning how to make friends, sharing, and different skills that they need to have.”
“We focused on skills like using scissors, balancing, using balls, kicking and throwing balls, and jumping,” Shaw said. “These are skills they would need to learn and know how to do on their own before attending school.”
Introducing children to these skills – in a safe and fun environment – puts them on a positive learning path as school and organized sports await in the coming years.
“I had the opportunity to have the kids do things that their parents really thought that they would not be able to do because they are so small,” Shaw said. “These are things that they necessarily wouldn't try with them at home, but I always tell the parents that once their kids are around other kids, they are going to try to do what the other kids are doing because they want to mimic what they see. If they see another kid trying to jump, they're going to do it, too.”
The Move and Play program is also a terrific learning experience for parents, who gain a better understanding of what types of skills they can focus on with their kids at home.
“Some of the parents came to me and told me they let their kids try to do new things after being in the class and seeing how well they do,” Shaw said. “Now that they are a bit more comfortable, the parents are letting their kids try things on their own, and that’s what I love to hear.”
One of the key features of all Start Smart programs is the involvement of the parents every step of the way.
“It's important for parents to be involved because a lot of the kids are not used to being in that type of setting,” Shaw said. “I had a lot of kids that were really shy when they first came to class because they were not used to being around other kids. They were not used to people looking at them while they were doing things. So by the parent being there it made them a little bit more comfortable with the activities. Whoever was there for that child – whether it was mom, dad, grandma or grandpa – I always tried to include them in the activities we were doing.”
The program produced many memorable moments, too.
“One in particular that really stands out is there was a little boy who did not like to do buttons on his own,” Shaw said. “I remember one of the first times he had to work on buttoning up a shirt on his own, he told his mom, ‘No mommy, this is too hard.’ So he would button a few and stop. And the next time he would come in it would be the same scenario. He would button a few buttons and stop. But then, it’s like something clicked and he started to get the hang of it. The next thing you know, he’s buttoning an entire shirt on his own and not complaining once. That’s what I really love about the Move and Play program. It’s teaching kids valuable skills they can do on their own.”
National Alliance for Youth Sports, Inc
5670 Corporate Way
West Palm Beach, FL 33407
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