Parents, kids have opportunity to interact at Tot Lot

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Sara Ross reads a book about snow to more than dozen children, their parents and chaperones during the June 26 Tot Lot session at Lochner Park in Prairie du Chien (Steve Van Kooten/Courier Press)

By Steve Van Kooten


With summer in full swing, parents and their children have transitioned from school mode to vacation time. For children, that can mean more play time and more family time, and for parents, that means more to schedule, more to organize and more to balance. The lack of structure can be difficult for some parents.

And that’s why a program like Tot Lot is so important; for an hour a week during the summer months, children under the age of five can to meet with others in their peer group.

“When [my daughter] went to school, I thought this would be good to keep her in the routine of having something to do,” said Megan Gokey, who has three children between the ages of 18 months and four years old.

“It’s just something for the younger group to do,” Sara Ross, head of the Tot Lot program, said. “Usually, when you hit four or five, there are a lot of activities to do, but before that, there really aren’t.”

“Sometimes there’s a lack of schedule, so it’s nice to have things to do,” Kelsey Jones, another parent with two children in the program, added.

Ross, a former HeadStart teacher, started the program to give young children opportunities to work on socialization, motor skills and other educational activities and to give their parents time to interact with other adults.

“We went to play group at Hoffman Hall and learned about this program,” Chelsea Hundt, who has her daughter in the program, said. “She made friends in the play group, and it’s just the structure and the social activities of it.”

Ross develops programming for the kids each week: there’s a story to read, exercise activities, crafts or science projects to work on. Ross’ background in childcare and education helped develop a routine for each session that focuses on literacy and motor skills.

“I like that there’s a mix of projects. We do fine motor stuff,” Emily Quam, mother of two girls in the program, said in 2023. “We have projects to do each week.”

Each session also has a designated topic that the kids can see and interact with.

“Sara does a great job: she starts out with a story and says a lot of things about nature: the sky, moon and shadows. A lot of educational things,” Brenda Timmerman said in 2023.

Parents in the program said the greatest benefit of Tot Lot and programs like it were the opportunities for children (and their parents) to socialize with other people outside their family.

“The socialization of the same age is important,” said Gokey. “I want them to be able to get along with somebody.”

Hundt said, “I’m a stay-at-home mom, so as far as socialization goes, it’s her family. These types of activities are perfect for her to get out with others her own age and learn from them.”

The Tot Lot program goes through July 24. The group meets at Lochner Park’s Big Shelter each Wednesday at 9 a.m. or in the Hoffman Hall basement if there is adverse weather. The program costs $10 per child. A parent must be present with the child during the program.

In the fall, Ross will bring back the Little Explorers program, which runs twice a week and features field trips, guest speakers, activities and other programming.

For more information, contact the city of Prairie du Chien Parks, Recreation and Forestry Department or the Hoffman Hall Recreation Desk.

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