Volume XVIII | Issue 2 | Fall 2018
Katie Taylor and her son participate in a play-to-learn group at the Drain Community Pool in July 2018. Photo: Mike Sullivan

Play initiative

Twice-weekly event draws families for educational games

School may have been out for the summer, but for some families, the learning never stopped. Every Tuesday and Thursday over the summer, a play-to-learn group at the Drain Community Pool drew families for three activity-packed hours.

Parents and children from Drain, Yoncalla and Elkton came together for facilitated games promoting language-arts skills, parent education classes, arts and crafts, lunch, family swim time, and the opportunity to talk to school staff about any concerns they may have about their child starting kindergarten.

The play initiative, now in its fourth year, is an outgrowth of Yoncalla Early Works, a program piloted in Yoncalla School District that seeks to build bridges between early childhood (birth to age 5) and early education (kindergarten through grade 3).

Following the implementation of Yoncalla Early Works, a regional collaborative of parents from three school districts came together to look at data around kindergarten readiness and identify needs in their own communities. Sharing that data helped the grassroots effort develop strategies to ensure that their pre-kindergartners were ready for school. 

With increased parenting education and child-development supports, Yoncalla’s incoming kindergarteners have seen improvement in early math, language and literacy skills.

 “It was really a desire to scale the work in Yoncalla Early Works,” says Erin Helgren, Early Works director, “to look at data regionally and identify needs in all three communities for promoting kindergarten readiness.”

The North Douglas County play group has drawn as many as 70 participants per session, including the target age of pre-kindergarten as well as older and younger siblings, parents and other family members. The daily average was more than 50.

The play group provides pre-kindergarten activities, parent supports and relationship-building opportunities prior to kindergarten entrance.

Many of the same concepts that drive the Early Works project are being implemented through the play group pieces: implementing high-quality education from birth; supporting family engagement in their children’s learning; and encouraging good health.

Grant support made it possible to hire staff, which are drawn from all three school districts, as well as a librarian. 

This year, the parent collaborative identified the need for stronger supports in math, and the play group includes math activities and take-home math games, along with an early literacy focus, which gives every participating child a book to take home after each session.

“The biggest value is connection and families having something fun and free that promotes kindergarten-readiness skills,” Helgren says


Two new books from The Ford Family Foundation focus on math activities for infants, toddlers and pre-kindergartners. The books are free to residents of Oregon and Siskiyou County, Calif., the Select Books program. Others may download a PDF version for no charge. 

Return to Issue Index
Share this: