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Play & Learn helps moms, kids connect

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When Jamie Wendt recently decided to become a stay at home mom, she was concerned about feeling isolated and about providing her kids opportunities for social interaction.

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Being new to the New Richmond area, "I didn't know that many people here," Wendt said.

In January 2013, Jamie began attending a weekly Play & Learn group with two of her children at St. Luke's Lutheran Church. The Play & Learn group, provided by the Family Resource Center St. Croix Valley with support from the New Richmond Area Community Foundation, is a free service for local parents with children ages 1 to pre-K that offers early childhood development information and parenting support.

Wendt said she feels that Play & Learn has indeed been a valuable resource to promote her children's development and provide her with support in her parenting.

"Through Play & Learn," Wendt said, "I've seen an improvement in Easton's (2 year-old son) self-confidence and language skills. And I have the chance to share joys and challenges with the group of parents and bring back ideas for myself and my husband to try."

Wendt said Play & Learn has also helped her feel more connected to the community.

"At one of the first Play & Learn groups," she said, "I started talking to another mom. She had also been new to the area at one point and she knew how I was feeling."

Wendt's relationship with the other mom developed outside of Play & Learn as well, as she invited Wendt to join a local moms' group. Through Play & Learn and the moms' group, Wendt said, "I now have a greater sense of belonging."

Wendt said she values Play & Learn from her firsthand experience as a mom, but also from a professional perspective. As a professional with degrees in both early childhood and adult education, Wendt understands the importance of parenting support and child development education.

"Play is super important for children to learn and develop physically, intellectually, and in social-emotional ability" she said. "Play & Learn provides a balance between structured and free play that I have not seen in any other group or organization. The stories and activities help bring that learning back to our home."

When asked why it is important for the community to support Play & Learn, Wendt said, "Play & Learn offers an experience that can't be replicated. It's a stepping stone to prepare children for preschool, grade school, and beyond. I really value Play & Learn. I enjoy it so much because I see how much fun my son has."

The Family Resource Center St. Croix Valley is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit community organization founded in 1998 to offer free early childhood development, family support, and parent education resources. FRCSCV's mission is to strengthen children, families, and communities by offering education, resources, and support. All of FRCSCV's services are free and available to any family with children ages zero to 6 in Pierce, Polk and St. Croix counties.

FRCSCV's programs are funded by individual and community support, including by the New Richmond Area Community Foundation. FRCSCV is also a funded partner of United Way St. Croix Valley and a Success By 6 vendor.

For more information about FRCSCV's programs and services, or to learn more about donating or volunteering, contact FRCSCV at 715-684-4440, www.frcscv.org, or info@frcscv.org.

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