Infancy to Independence is a weekly parent-run playgroup cooperative for families with infants, toddlers and preschool-aged children in Waltham and the surrounding communities. Families meet once a week, from 9:15am–11:15am either Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday. Each day is limited to 18–20 children. I to I follows a schedule that mixes structure with flexibility, providing educational opportunities while encouraging creativity. I to I gives parents an atmosphere away from the pressures of home to spend quality time with their children. We provide a rich and varied environment for parents and children to experience together. There is also time alone with other parents to discuss ways to make parenting easier and more enjoyable while raising emotionally healthy children.
A typical day looks like this:
9:00 am Set-up
Assistants A & B arrive early to set up for the day. Please see our CO-OP page for more information about each of our cooperative roles.
9:15 am Welcome/One on One Time
Our day begins with activities that encourage playing one on one with your child(ren). These include a weekly themed art project, cars and trucks, puzzles/books, lots of dress up and pretend toys, and much more. This is a time meant for parent and child(ren) to focus on each other without interruptions from home (phone, TV, laundry, work).
This is your family's time and you choose how to spend it together. It provides a wonderful opportunity to see your children as individuals and for them to learn and practice the concepts of sharing, patience, cooperation, and listening.
10:00 am Circle Time
Children and parents sit together in a circle and participate in a variety of activities centered on the theme of the day. This usually includes, but is not limited to, story telling, music (singing & dancing), a parachute, and use of props by the circle leader. Each week a different parent is assigned to be the circle leader as one of our co-op jobs.
Circle is a great time for children to learn how to interact with others, follow directions, and learn how to participate in a group. After circle time is over, we sing another transition song and get ready for hand washing.
10:15 am Snack
The children wash their hands prior to snack with their parent(s) while the four daily assistants (A,B, C & D) set up snacks for the children. Juice, water and non-perishable snack items (pretzels, etc) are provided by I to I while a perishable snack item is brought by a different parent each week as another co-op job.
During snack time, the assistants take a break. This is also the time that announcements are made. As snack is ending, parents bring out gross motor toys to start engaging the children prior to separating for Discussion time.
10:30 am Free Play/Discussion
Assistants A, B, C & D supervise free play while the rest of the parents participate in a discussion located in another room. Free play gives the children an opportunity to interact more with each other and with adults who aren't necessarily their own parents.
Discussion allows parents to practice separating from their child(ren) as they're comfortable and gives the opportunity for adult conversation. The parents take turns leading a discussion once during the semester.
11:10 am Cleanup and Goodbye
Everyone helps collect free play toys, then a few parents lead the children in a song or game while the other parents finish putting the toys in their places. Then we gather in a circle to sing a goodbye song.
11:15 am Final Cleanup
Assistants C & D stay to make sure all items are put away properly, lights are off and the space is clean before going home.
A Typical Semester
There are two separate 16-week semesters during the school year: one in the fall from September to January and one in the spring from February to June, following the Waltham Public School calendar. Families can register for either or both sessions.
We do not meet during the summer; however, parents often set up informal play dates throughout the summer so that children can maintain their friendships and parents can get together, talk, and enjoy the beautiful weather.
Each playgroup day has a brunch twice a semester in lieu of the discussion time. The brunch is an opportunity to have fun together, eat delicious food, and discuss how the semester is going. It also allows the children a chance to experience many different styles of food, encouraging more adventurous eating.
Each fall we visit an assisted living facility to share our program with them. This is a great opportunity for our children to experience something a little different than our normal program week. We visit with the residents, share snack and conduct a circle time.
Each spring we have a field trip to the fire or police station. This is not only a fun experience but also an opportunity for our children to see our civil servants in a non-threatening situation. If a crisis situation ever arises in your home, your child will have a positive experience with our civil servants, which will hopefully lessen any fears.
Parent Social Events
In addition to fun activities for the kids, parents can participate in events just for them. We take turns hosting a monthly book club, hold scrapbooking/craft nights and evenings out and around town. All activities are optional and attendance changes based on parent availability, but it's a great way to extend discussions and make friends with the other adults in I to I. It's also the perfect chance to meet parents on different days, whom you wouldn't normally see during the week.