This column began as a focus on the monthly Working Families Playgroup taking place at Rutland’s Wonderfeet Kids Museum, but after a conversation with Executive Director Danielle Monroe, there are a variety of family-friendly things going on at the museum to report on, and many are free.

Last November the Working Families Playgroup began as a weekly event, but starting Tuesday, Jan. 14 the group will meet monthly 5:30 to 7 p.m. as part of a collaboration with Rutland County Parent Child Center.

You can find information each month on Wonderfeet’s Facebook page, as well as a place to RSVP to the event, which takes place every first Tuesday of the month, totally free. A meal is provided, and Monroe said, “We encourage all types of different families from across the area to come. We have kids from toddlers up to 9 and 10 years old.”

“It’s families coming together,” Monroe said. “Everybody eats together, everybody plays together, the parents get a chance to meet other parents, the kids get a chance to play with kids who maybe go to different schools. It’s fun and we’ve seen some adorable little friendships happen.”

The kids have free play for the first hour, with arts and crafts and other activities for them to choose from. At the end everyone helps clean up, and the kids choose a book from the mini library to read together before they go home.

“It’s a nice transition for us to close down the evening, and for kids it’s a nice start to their bedtime routine,” Monroe said.

Monroe guessed between five and 10 families have been coming each time, anywhere from 12 to over 20 people, and the RSVP each month helps the museum staff plan for enough food for everyone.

“And because we did have so much interest in evening playgroup in 2020 we are adding one night a week where we have evening hours,” Monroe added. “So Friday nights now the museum stays open until 6, if you have a regular museum membership ($65-$125) or you just want to pay the regular day-pass admission ($5).”

In addition, a new group for new parents begins this month, for parents who have just had a baby or who have a child joining their family through foster care or adoption.

“Every Wednesday morning from 10 to 11:30 a.m. we have this new-parents playgroup called ‘It Takes a Village,’” Monroe explained. “It’s a chance for parents to connect with each other, to share everything they’re going through in that transition. We have coffee and snacks, and toddlers or preschool-age siblings are welcome to come along while the moms get to connect with each other. It’s also free and meets weekly.”

The Rutland region received a grant form the state to put in place systems that would help with postpartum depression and anxiety. Monroe says support groups like this have been shown to be effective because one of the key resources is feeling like you have a support system and a community who understand what you’re going through.

“We’re hoping it’s going to be a great resource,” Monroe said. “Getting families feeling supported and knowing who they can go to when they have a question, when they’re struggling, or when they have something that they want to celebrate.”

This is a free group, with donations accepted. For more information, go online to www.wonderfeetkidsmuseum.org.

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