As Heather Holland’s youngest prepared for the big leap into kindergarten, the mother of three felt she wasn’t quite ready to let go. But not in the way one would expect.
Holland, a veteran parent of the St. Charles Park District’s early childhood and preschool classes, wasn’t ready to say goodbye to the welcoming, nurturing and inclusive environment she had found at the facility.
So, when an opportunity arose about a year ago to teach, Holland didn’t hesitate. And she’s been fostering connections ever since.
“The classes focus on important things like sharing, taking turns and providing opportunities for kids to play with their peers, but it’s also great for parents who don’t necessarily have friends with kids the same ages,” said Holland of the park district’s many parent-tot offerings. “The kids make friends while the parents make friends. It’s really a special thing to see unfold.”
Kara Guizzetti-Reif, early childhood, preschool and day camp supervisor, appreciates Holland not only as an engaging instructor but also as someone who can guide first-time parents.
“She can be a really calming presence,” said Guizzetti-Reif, who knows the transition into structured learning for young children can come with uncertainty and worry for both little ones and their parents. “Heather really gets to know these families and she is able to talk to them about all the programming that’s available.”
When it comes to programs, Holland is undoubtedly busy with a full roster of fun and enriching classes.
Parent-child classes include Playtime Pals, which is designed to build a budding sense of independence in children from a year and a half to 2 with simple art experiences, stories and songs. Itty Bitty Art Studio is for those 2 to 3 and finds parents and toddlers collaborating on art pieces while utilizing several different kinds of supplies.
Growing to School, also for those 2 to 3, serves as an introduction to a child’s first classroom experience with story time, age-appropriate activities and the chance for play with peers with parents or caregivers still nearby. In the same vein is Little Learners. Geared to tykes 2 and a half to 3, this offering presents shapes and colors for young participants to explore through art, games and songs. Parents are asked to wait in the lobby to help kids get a sense of the preschool experience.
“A lot of parents may be nervous about how their kid is going to be in terms of interacting with others so that’s what makes this such a great environment,” said Holland of the preschool readiness classes. “Parents are still here. They’re not quite letting go just yet but the programs help to take away the overwhelmingness of it all.”
Two new programs Holland developed and will lead this fall include The Sky’s the Limit and Silly Scarecrows. Both are for children 3 to 5 years old.
The Sky’s the Limit puts outer space front and center as participants make their own rocket ship-shaped lunch and explore the theme by way of books and crafts. Silly Scarecrows pays homage to the annual St. Charles Scarecrow Fest with stories, music, art and games that play on the time-honored symbol of the autumn harvest.
Additional programs continue into the fall and winter. For more information about upcoming early childhood classes, including dates and times, go to www.stcparks.org.