by Stefanie Sears
When Parents Place, a parent-child family program that served Westchester for years, was shut down and efforts to save it were unsuccessful, a group of parents set out to create the non-profit organization Let’s Play! A Place for Families. It opened on November 3, 2015 at the Tarrytown United Methodist Church, though it had been initially launched in July and August at Patriots Park. Let’s Play welcomes families with children ranging from infancy to five years of age but families are also allowed to bring their elder children during school vacation weeks.
“The mission of Let’s Play! is to provide a safe and nurturing environment where children play, learn, explore and develop the self-confidence and skills they need to make decisions and solve problems,” said Elly Kelly, a founding member of the organization.
“Our professional staff has decades of experience working with local families, so they have a firm understanding and familiarity with our community’s needs. We created Let’s Play! because we felt there was a void in our community for early childhood programming that brings together families from all over our diverse community in an accessible way,” Kelly said. “At every session we have a staff of early childhood educators and social workers (both English and Spanish speaking) to guide play and assist parents.”
“It has been a true labor of love getting Let’s Play! up and running,” she added. “We have donated countless hours of time and energy because we feel so passionate about the need for this program in Tarrytown.”
Other founding members include Amy Witmer, Adriana Pentz, and Shezzy Hidalgo of the Tarrytown and Sleepy Hollow area, Kelly Brett of Hartsdale, and Sandra Duarte of Dobbs Ferry.
Currently Let’s Play! is a drop-in weekly program on Tuesday mornings from 9:30 AM – 11:30 AM. Kelly believes that this drop-in format is part of what sets them apart from other “parent and me” programs. Because of this, families have the convenience of incorporating the program into their flexible schedules. Another reason for their uniqueness is the inclusion of their bilingual professional early childhood staff that runs playtime, programming, and parent discussion groups. The discussion group, offered in both English and Spanish, is considered a favorite activity among parents. Parents and guardians are welcome to bring up any topic regarding parenting and family life, and fellow parents and the group leaders provide warm, supportive, and encouraging advice.
The Let’s Play! program includes free playtime, stories and music in English and Spanish, snack time ( snacks are supplied), arts and crafts, gross motor activities, and sensory play. According to Kelly, Let’s Play! can somewhat be considered a pre-kindergarten substitute.
“Our program is run with a preschool environment in mind. We aim to better prepare children for Pre-K and Kindergarten as they enter the local public school districts,” she explained. “This is especially important for families whose children may not attend a formal preschool before they enter kindergarten.”
Let’s Play! has already participated in events such as Third Friday and the Tarrytown Music Hall’s Family Fun Day. They are planning on continuing with these activities in the future.
“We hope to become a trusted resource for local families and early childcare professionals,” Kelly said. “Our future goals include expanding to additional days and programming options, such as support groups for families with special needs, breastfeeding, postpartum depression, and more. We are in the process of acquiring 501(c)3 non-profit status.”
You can find Let’s Play! on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, as well as a monthly e-newsletter. They also have a website in the works.
Let’s Play! charges $15 per family per session and includes financial aid for those who need it. The Tarrytown United Methodist Church is located at 27 South Washington Street.