I Spy…Toys and Playgroups, Speech Groups and Music Groups…What Do I Spy? ~ I Spy Lanterman’s Play Program Expanding with Grants from the S. Mark Taper Foundation and Fred and June MacMurray Foundation

The importance of play in child development is indisputable. Scientific research demonstrates the effects of play on the brain and behavior patterns from childhood through adulthood. And for children with developmental delays, quality play time with parents can lead to dramatic improvements in skills, such as communication, engagement, sensory awareness, cognitive ability and creativity.

Parents are their child's first teachers and playmates and play a pivotal role in providing a stimulating environment for their child. Yet many families in our community due to financial burden, are unable to purchase appropriate toys for their children, and also lack support in identifying successful play strategies for their children with special needs.

“Recent changes to the state’s Early Intervention Services Act have reduced the scope of services for at-risk children birth to 3 years of age,” shares Rose Chacana, Koch-Young Resource Center director. “While services such as speech and occupational therapy are not available to children in the Prevention Resource and Referral Services program, grants from the S. Mark Taper Foundation and the Fred and June MacMurray Foundation have enabled Lanterman to expand the play program. This helps mitigate the void in services through additional parent training and empowerment, along with developmental monitoring.”

The play program has the following free components for parents and their children birth to 5 years of age:

  • a toy loan program, for eligible children ages birth to 5 with an ever expanding collection of developmental toys;
  • guided multilingual, multi-session playgroups for children and their parents, in which parents learn about the use of toys and simple activities to facilitate their child’s development; and
  • educational training for parents on play, developing speech skills, and other relevant topics.

“Grant funding from the S. Mark Taper Foundation and the Fred and June MacMurray Foundation has enabled the KYRC to expand its offerings to include a curriculum that meets the unique needs of babies with special needs and their parents, to establish professional partnerships to bring guest speakers to the groups to provide expert advice to parents, and to offer parent/child groups in partnership with Pasadena Child Development Associates. These groups include a speech-related group called Toddler Talk and a music program called Music Together,” says Play Program Coordinator Lisa Anand. “We will also be able to expand our toy collection and develop a comprehensive collection of online resources that will support parents in continuing to utilize play to further their child’s development outside of the educational trainings and various parent/child groups.”

While the generosity of the S. Mark Taper Foundation and the Fred and June MacMurray Foundation, has made it possible to grow and expand the play program, the success of the past two years is also attributed to the instrumental support of dedicated volunteers. Corporate donors have provided toys to the collection. Youth from Sacred Heart Academy in Flintridge have helped to tag, clean, secure and shelve all new toys, create displays and a recommended reading list on the area of play and child development for children with special needs. Additionally, a partnership with Robert F. Kennedy High School as well as Sacred Heart Academy was established, in which local high school students will support the toy loan program for a period of six to eight weeks at a time.

“These students have been a phenomenal addition to the program. As the program develops we plan to include the volunteers in all aspects of programming from playgroup and workshop hands-on assistance, to toy cataloguing and circulation, and storytime events. We hope this exposure to our community will both increase their awareness of and sensitivity towards the special needs population and possibly introduce them to a potential career path,” adds Anand.

For more information about supporting the play program, including volunteering, contact Lisa Anand at lanand@lanterman.org or 213.252.8348.

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