Respect for the babies and respect for the parents is the foundation of this play group. Parents and Babies Circle, for parents and their infants ages 6 weeks to 4 months old, has been meeting some Friday mornings since May. The last July session is scheduled for next week, but all involved hope that the program will continue and even expand to weekly sessions.
Parents and Babies Circle is one of many free programs and services available to expectant parents and parents of children from birth to age 4 at Washington County Family Center. This play group is designed to help new parents get "in synch" with their kids and to help them balance being parents with their own needs, said Wendy Weiner, center director.
The program flyer invites parents to come and learn to observe, respect, understand and enjoy the individuality of their children. They can find out what to expect at different stages of development, when to play with their children and when to let them play on their own.
Bloomer, coordinator of the Infant/Toddler Program at CitiKids Child Development Center at Citicorp in Hagerstown, has years of experience in child-care training. She said her participation is made possible by a "nice boss" who allows her time away from her job to share with the parents at the Family Center. She said new parents tend to worry a lot.
Ideas for simple, inexpensive toys are presented. One week Bloomer gave parents cotton table napkins, and their homework was to use them with their babies and see what happened. One mother stood the napkin up like a tent near her baby, who was interested and reached for it. Another made a two-eared bunny puppet.
The parents gained an appreciation that it's not fancy toys, it's the relationship that's important, Bloomer said.
Twenty-four-year-old Dawn Hawk said she comes to the Family Center to help her daughter, Brittany. The delicate 3-month-old had her big brown eyes fixed on her mom. Hawk, equally focused on the baby girl, was quietly smiling and talking to her, asking if she was going to tell a story. Brittany's big eyes got bigger as she frowned slightly then grinned as she worked to gurgle a response.
Christopher Rasco and his mother, Becky Rasco, arrived a little late, but were welcomed with interest by Brittany and Kashia.
"Babies love babies," Bloomer pointed out.
Christopher, a sturdy 4-month-old, didn't have much to say, but he seemed very interested in everything, and his body language said he was excited to see everyone.
"Babies do everything with their whole bodies," Bloomer observed.
Bloomer shares such information gained from her education and professional experience, and the parents share their life experiences. The sharing takes place in a simple, quiet space, where everyone is respected, even little tiny babies.