Operation Little Learners kicked off at the Hampton Roads Regional Office in Virginia Beach this morning. This parent-and-me preschool readiness program is now open to all military dependents ages 18 months to 5 years. A program created by the Armed Services YMCA, Operation Little Learners provides a supportive environment for both parents and children to learn, connect and grow. Operation Little Learners understands that parents are a child's first and best teacher. This program equips parents with the tools they need to help their child develop and grow while also giving both parent and child an opportunity for connection and community.
"Military life creates significant challenges for preschool aged children, but it also creates opportunities for growth and resilience. Operation Little Learners really helps military families take advantage of those opportunities," Tessa Davis, Operation Little Learners Program Manager, states. Military life can be hard. Multiple moves before a child reaches school age can create a variety of challenges including inconsistent educational opportunities and lack of community. Operation Little Learners empowers parents to actively guide their child's early education. It also gives both parent and child an opportunity to build community with other military families who understand their unique situation. The curriculum emphasizes fine motor skills, letter recognition, sensory play and opportunities for social development. Each session runs twice per week for 13 weeks. The Armed Services YMCA of Hampton Roads currently has four sessions running in locations in Virginia Beach and Norfolk.
"I can’t even begin to explain what the Little Learner program means to me. It’s hard to put into words," said participant-turned-facilitator Kayla Roads. "My kids have been through a lot in their short little lives. With deployments and underways, it’s been hard for them to find consistency and stability. Operation Little Learners GAVE them that stability they so desperately needed." More than anything, Operation Little Learners gives participants an opportunity to learn, connect and grow in a supportive and FUN environment. According to the Center for Arts Education, students who engage in arts education are four times more likely to be recognized for academic achievement. Our facilitators design and create art and learning activities that emphasize weekly developmental goals. Through the use of stories, songs, learning stations and more, they engage both children and parents.
Class sessions are two hours long. The first hour of each session is an educational experience. During the second half of the session, children get to participate in Kids Club, an opportunity for structured free play. Once per week, parents have the opportunity to participate in either Zumba or yoga (with certified instructors) while their children participate in Kids Club. Operation Little Learners understands that parents need support and connection just as much as their kiddos!
Operation Little Learners results in parents and children that are stronger and more resilient, who not only develop and grow due to the organized curriculum, but also connect to a support network filled with other moms and dads experiencing the same military life challenges. With a focus on phonics, writing, science, and math skills, participants graduate feeling prepared for kindergarten and having established a foundation for future social and academic success.