MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N. C. --
With their wild energy, they roamed throughout the room, spewing gibberish through their giant grins and conquering the toys laid out for them.
It was Midway Park’s Community Play Date which began with children’s music playing from a small radio in the corner of the room. Parents and toddlers began arriving in small groups, and after some coaxing from their parents the children began to play.
The play date is a free one-hour program which takes place on Tuesdays, where toddlers and their parents can get together and play in an unstructured environment.
“I really like the format,” said a mother at the event. “(My daughter) gets to use her imagination and she’s more interactive with other kids. If I have to show her how to do activities, she doesn’t get to use her imagination.”
When asked what kind of program they would like, parents overwhelmingly asked for an unstructured environment for their young ones.
“We had a lot of (parents) looking for something to do where the kids can interact and the parents can just relax,” said Victoria Braggiotti, the recreation specialist with Midway Park Community Center. “They wanted something laid back and unstructured where the kids could just be kids and still get that socialization.”
However, the program isn’t just for the kids.
“Sometimes when you’re busy with kids you don’t get to see other parents,” said Veronica Stewart. “You don’t have other people to get advice from. Here, you can get new friends.”
Braggiotti feels that the community play date gives parents the opportunity to interact with each other.
“A lot of our moms end up building friendships that carry on outside of the (community) center,” said Braggiotti. “They go to lunch together and they set up play dates outside of what we offer. It builds the community and gives them an opportunity to build a support network.”
Cheralyn White began coming to the events six months ago.
“It’s nice,” said White. “I had just moved to the area and I didn’t know anybody, but the community center is nice. You can just walk in and they are very welcoming.”
For more information, call 451-1807.