All are welcome at the Early Learning Program

Sage constructs a rainbow chain of plastic links. She is seated at a low table in the Early Learning program classroom. While managing to focus on her design, the 3-year-old intermittently teases her teacher. She’s obviously quite comfortable in her environment: free to create and socialize.

Sage’s teacher, Chelsy, teases her right back. Chelsy has been working full-time at the Witham Family YMCA since November 2021 as the Lead Preschool Teacher. When asked what her favorite part about teaching at the Y’s Early Learning program is, Chelsy doesn’t miss a beat:

“Easily the kids! I love being able to teach them things. I love being able to interact with them. I love being able to see them interact and learn things.”

Chelsy recounts how the class recently read a book about consequences for one’s actions. She really likes it when there is an opportunity for the little students to learn life lessons.

“It’s amazing just seeing them grow,” she says.

Across the room, a couple of boys call out. Apparently, a block tower has been dismantled without permission, and little Miss Sage is the chief and sole member of the demolition crew. Here’s another opportunity for growth! Chelsy firmly, but kindly, reminds the children how to share and respect each other’s use of the toys. Sage obeys and returns to her chain-making.

Early Learning Benefits

At pick-up time, Sage’s mom Ashlyn shares that her interactions with other kids have improved after joining the Early Learning program. An only child until her little brother was born during the pandemic, Sage began preschool in February this year. Ashlyn remembers examining various reviews for the Y and for other programs before starting. Among the reviews she read, those for Early Learning at the YMCA were the most positive. She also learned through her research that the Y undergoes regular inspections.

“They actually teach,” adds the young mother.

Ashlyn compares what she’s observed about the classes for older kids at her son’s daycare with Early Learning at the Witham Family Y and Early Learning comes out on top. She praises the methods at the Y for helping her daughter’s speech improve significantly. Chelsy says the best way to go about speech development is purposeful conversation.

“You talk to her normally instead of like a kid,” she says.

Chelsy emphasizes that sticking to topics within the child’s wheelhouse grounds his or her understanding.

Her perspective doesn’t come without experience. Chelsy raised her little sister and has helped raise her cousin as well. To add to that life experience, she’s halfway through her bachelor’s degree in Child Development and plans to obtain a teacher’s certificate right after graduation. Serving as Lead Teacher at the Y is giving her that professional edge while still taking classes.

Chelsy doesn’t leave learning in her college classroom, though. She’s already read all the books for the Creative Curriculum, the material of choice for the program. Staff have just started their official training.

“It’s basically how to learn while playing. Like in the play kitchen: ‘What kind of food would you put into the fridge? What kind of food would you put in the cabinet?’ You can turn everything into a learning experience.”

The Early Learning program at the Y isn’t just a daycare. Chelsy shared how the childcare workers engage in activities with the young students such as art, games, swimming and physical exercise on the outdoor playground at the center. The center also has a full-sized gym for use in inclement weather, or for more structured activities.

As with every YMCA program, all are welcome at the Early Learning program. Chelsy mentions how the program has served students with learning difficulties, such as ADHD. They’ve also had students with neurodivergence such as Asperger’s syndrome. She shares that the staff sticks to a schedule and reiterates that everything they do involves learning. Sometimes they’ve come alongside children working through emotions during family difficulties or simply adjusting to a new baby brother or sister.

From plastic rainbow chains to block towers to young minds, we’re always building something in the Early Learning program. To start building with us today, you can register your child for Fall Preschool here:

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