by Jessica Claire Haney
When my son and I first went to Parenting Playgroups’ Play and Workshop class – previously called the Toddler Program – he was a very attached little boy. The program was perfect for us; my son discovered his inner gregarious self while I learned a lot about how to be a good parent for him.
We spent the first half of the 90-minute class playing together with the other children in the adorable setting with engaging, thoughtful toys. Then, while several other moms and I sat down to a lecture and discussion with Dr. Rene Hackney, my toddler son got to have his first social experience with another adult. A preschool teacher served snack, read a story, led the children in songs and bubbles and watched them as they played while we moms learned about children’s language development or motor development or discussed steps to positive discipline. My son could come over to snuggle or nurse for comfort, but after the second week, he never did.
Now he’s a happy first-grader who shows no signs of the separation anxiety that plagued us until he began at Parenting Playgroups. And his little sister is enjoying Preschool Play at Parenting Playgroups while I’ve been helping Dr. Rene prepare for an updated version of the workbook that goes with her popular Positive Discipline course. The more I’ve been re-reading the material, the more I realize how profoundly my parenting has been influenced by all I’ve learned from Dr. Rene, an expert on child development and Northern Virginia’s go-to resource for all things parenting. If you haven’t attended one of her programs or workshops you’re missing out on some great conversations and food for thought.
The Play and Workshop class not only got my son comfortable in a social setting without being velcroed to his mom, but it also helped me connect with other moms and to get a tremendous education about what is appropriate to expect from children at what times and how to handle challenges when they arise. Of course, my second child has brought me a whole new set of learning experiences, so it’s been very helpful to review Dr. Rene’s materials! I’m still friends with many of the moms who were in the class with me, and we still muse “What would Rene say?” when considering our parenting challenges now five years later.
Dr. Rene opened Parenting Playgroups in 2003 when her daughters were just two and five years old. “It was important to start the business close to home when my girls were young,” Hackney explained. “We loved our Alexandria office and the fact that it was five minutes from our house.”
However, it wasn’t long after Dr. Rene opened the Falls Church location to great response that she knew she’d eventually need to focus her efforts there – or else clone herself. “People love the Falls Church location,” she said. “It was great when we moved in, and it’s only gotten better” with additions like The Local Market foods right below Parenting Playgroups and artsy Stifel and Capra right next door. Also in the same strip are Doodlehopper toys and Clay Café Studios."
Whenever I hear about a homeschooler wanting a structured social experience that she doesn’t have to create or a parent of a shy child who wants a gentle introduction to preschool, I always point to Parenting Playgroups. All of the wonderful programs I initially enjoyed at the original Alexandria location have now been moved over to the Falls Church site at 246A West Broad Street. Located within blocks of dozens of eateries and within walking distance to the Falls Church library, Cherry Hill Park, and the Custis bike trail, Parenting Playgroups’s Falls Church location boasts loads of nearby opportunities for parents to take advantage of while their children are in Preschool Play and for enjoying as a family after class.
Summer Camp enrollment is open, as is registration for Preschool Play for the fall and for the Play and Workshop class. In addition to Preschool Play and the Play and Workshop classes, Parenting Playgroups also offers Boot Camps for children on topics like “Sharing and Turn-Taking” and “Managing Competition” as well as Social Skills groups.
Summer mornings starting June 24 will be full with camp, and Drop-In Play will return on Mondays in the fall. However, Parenting Playgroups will offer a limited number of free 90-minute open play times for moms groups on select summer afternoons. These fill up quickly, so anyone interested should contact Ms. Claire at claire (at) parentingplaygroups (dot) com to schedule. All other questions can be directed to programs (at) parentingplaygroups (dot) com
Jessica Claire Haney is a freelance writer and mother of two. A leader of the Arlington/Alexandria chapter of Holistic Moms Network , she blogs about living naturally – most of the time – at CrunchyChewyMama.com and writes for The DC Moms.
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