The birth and care of a young child is a memorable experience, but as all parents and caregivers know, the period from babyhood to kindergarten also can be a trying time.
However, several groups and agencies in Madison County work to provide opportunities for parents to get together, share their experiences and learn.
Tuesday morning, about two dozen parents, caregivers and grandparents crowded into a meeting room at the Madison County Public Library in Richmond. Several women immediately began chatting to each other as their toddlers and babies either sat in their laps or explored the room.
Youth Services Assistant Bethany Wells led the group of babies and toddlers in songs, reading time and a craft activity.
More children and adults slipped into the room even after the singing started. One little girl danced away as others sat on the colorful rug, watching Wells go through the song’s hand motions. The adults followed along as well.
“It’s good to grow!” Wells said as she discussed the possibility of moving into the larger meeting room if story-time attendance continued to increase.
The library in Richmond has a weekly Babes and Tots story time at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday and a story hour for preschoolers ages 3 to 5 is at 10:30 a.m. Thursday.
The library’s Berea branch has a weekly story hours for children birth to 3 at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday and older children at 10:30 a.m. Monday.
Classes and support groups
The Madison County Extension Service offers a variety of support groups and classes to caregivers of young children.
Parenting educator Pam Francis acknowledged that raising a child in those early years can be an isolating experience. Also, modern parents often aren’t able to spend as much quality time with their children, she noted.
“Families are very busy,” Francis said.
Parenting skills usually are passed down through the generations in families, something that can be disrupted by moving away from extended family or other circumstances, Francis said.
A recent trend is that more men are participating in toddler and preschooler activities because it’s become socially acceptable for fathers and grandfathers to assist in child-rearing, she said.
One group for parents and caregivers of children up to the age of 4 is Small Fry Mondays. The group meets from 6 to 7 p.m. on the second Monday of each month at the county extension office, 230 Duncannon Lane, Richmond.
An educational topic is usually discussed, and a healthy snack and craft activity is provided for the children.
Francis said the free group also is open to pregnant mothers and their partners.
The extension service also has a regular class called Keys to Great Parenting. Francis said she usually works with the same group of participants during a nine- to 10-week period.
The class meets from 1 to 3 p.m. on Thursdays, and it covers parenting at all ages. Participants must register by calling 623-4072.
Finally, it’s not always the mother and father who raise a child. More and more grandparents are raising their grandchildren, Francis noted. They often need support as well.
The Grandparents as Parents support group meets from 10 a.m. to noon on the first Tuesday of the month at the extension service office.
Also this month, a GAP conference is being hosted in Madison County, Francis said. The event is from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. A variety of speakers will provide information, and door prizes and a meal will be offered. Registration is required in order to be included for the free lunch.