It’s been a difficult year for everyone, especially for parents with young kids. Luckily, the Cape’s own Coalition for Children is here to provide tools for parents, activities for kids, and support for families on the Cape!
The Coalition for Children provides grant-funded, education and support programs for families with infants, toddlers, and school-aged children. Based in Falmouth and Mashpee, they offer play and learn groups, workshops, parenting classes, support groups, developmental screenings, community events, and assistance linking parents with childcare providers and other support groups. The goal of the Coalition for Children is to create a strong foundation for the area’s children, families, and community as a whole.
Many free programs are made possible by the Coordinated Family and Community Engagement Grant through the Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care. These programs provide local, family-focused activities and services that support parents as their child’s first teacher.
Like so many things, the pandemic disrupted the way the Coalition for Children operated. Bethany Gay, the Coalition’s coordinator wanted to make sure the early childhood development specialists who are employed by the organization were still able to work safely, so the parent child play and learn activities went virtual.
A week after the pandemic shutdowns began the Coalition for Children had their virtual programming up and running with a daily newsletter featuring early learning, fine motor skills, art, movement, and science activities. The Coalition for Children didn’t let the pandemic stop them from supporting Cape families and parents. They also produced lots of fun video content for kids including Spanish for Kids, Playtime with Nancy, LapBabies activities, and even videos produced by Falmouth High School students, which were a big hit!
Their support groups and workshops for parents moved to Zoom. An upside of this was that it allowed parents looking for support from areas further away to join in. Classes offered include Active Parenting: The First Five Years, Dads & Littles Playgroup, and more! The virtual parent groups will continue to meet online once a week throughout the summer. They also help to connect caregivers to groups like Grandparents Raising Grandchildren, Cape Cod Area Parent Support Group, Heal like a Mother: Postpartum Depression Support Group, and other resources offered locally.
For socially distanced activities for kids and families, the Coalition for Children offered Story Walks. These setups allowed kids to get outside, socialize, and exercise while staying safe. The story walks were such a popular activity that they will continue throughout the summer! Keep an eye out for recent stories like Mo Willems’ Are You Ready to Play Outside? and Each Peach Pear Plum by Allan and Janet Ahlberg. These walks cultivate a love of literacy and reading that will hopefully last a lifetime!
As a mother and former teacher, Bethany Gay loves her job as the Coalition’s Coordinator, and has seen how important the work they do is firsthand. She remembers taking her own daughter to activities, and how important that was for her as a parent new to the area to meet other families. Bethany loves that she can now pass along the support to the community, “Every parent needs tools,” Bethany says, “and that’s just what the Coalition for Children provides.”
She also loves working with the little ones, planning out the activities and enjoying the expressions the kids make when they are engaged in the learning activities. “I love seeing parents and kids working together!” she says.
The Coalition for Children is currently looking for new families to join their ParentChild+ program! The program was founded to reduce high school dropout rates by connecting with families and kids before they even enter school. Working with kids 18 months to 4 years old, the ParentChild+ focuses on early literacy, school readiness, and success, and provides free books, toys, and literacy activities to participating families. If you or someone you know is interested, reach out to the Coalition for Children through their website.
There’s lots happening at the Coalition for Children, don’t miss out on their activities, events, and groups! Find their summer schedule below.