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Playtime for toddlers

Group brings youngsters, caregivers together

By Angie Landsverk

The Waupaca Area Toddler Group offers opportunities for toddlers and their caregivers to meet for socialization and play.

Sponsored by the Waupaca Family Resource Center, the group meets at two different sites throughout the school year, as well as at area parks and other local places during the summer.

Lisa Fuzak, Rebecca Thieme-Baeseman and David Wood are parents of toddlers themselves and are the volunteers who host the group’s meetings.

“Since three parents are involved, at least one of us is always here,” said Thieme-Baeseman. “Besides the three of us organizing and hosting, each one who comes helps pick up toys and clean up. Everyone chips in, which is cool and helpful.”

Two-year-old Rainier Baeseman balances on a ball with the help of her mother, Rebecca Thieme-Baeseman, during a Waupaca Area Toddler Group meeting at the Waupaca Recreation Center. Angie Landsverk Photo

The group is meeting from 9-10 a.m. every Monday, in the Waupaca Recreation Center’s exercise room.

There are plenty of toys and balls available, not to mention space for play.

The last scheduled Monday meeting for this school year is on Monday, May 22.

The Waupaca Area Toddler Group also meets from 6-7 p.m. on two Tuesdays each month, in that same space.

Those meetings are scheduled on March 7, March 21, April 11, April 25, May 9 and May 23.

In addition, the group meets from 10-11:30 a.m. on two Fridays a month, at Faith Community Church.

Snacks and a themed craft project are provided at each of those meetings.

For the remainder of this school year, meetings are planned on March 3, March 17, April 7, April 21, May 5 and May 19.

The Waupaca Area Toddler Group schedule notes the playdates in May may be subject to cancellation when the weather is good.

Both the Waupaca Parks and Recreation Department and Faith Community Church provide space for the toddler group at no cost.

At the rec center, the group has access to toys the department has from a previous program.

Andrew Whitman, the city’s recreation programmer, believes this is the second winter the group is meeting at the rec center.

“We just want them to have a safe, comfortable place for kids to run around in,” he said.

Faith Community Church provides three rooms for the group.

Thieme-Baeseman moved to the area 2 1/2 years ago and said typically, about 10 parents or caregivers attend Waupaca Area Toddler Group playdates.

Most of them have two children, she said.

The group is for children who around age 1 to 4.

Siblings of toddlers are always welcomed.

“On days when there is no school, kids who are elementary aged will come with their siblings,” Thieme-Baeseman said.

Wood said their target age group is youngsters who are walking to preschoolers.

He started going to the toddler group with his two children about 3 1/2 years ago, after moving to Waupaca.

Wood became involved in volunteering as one of the host parents after the children of the previous hosts aged out of the program.

He stressed that the toddler group is not a babysitting service.

It is about playing with one’s children and socializing with others.

The meetings at the rec center allow the toddlers to have free play, with no structure, he said.

Thieme-Baeseman said some grandparents and nannies also attend.

She said the children get along well, and sometimes, toys from home are brought to the meetings.

It is common for some to attend to plan additional playdates together, especially when there are holiday breaks.

The Waupaca Area Toddler Group has a Facebook page and provides updates about its plan there, as well as information about family friendly events.

During the summer, meetings are planned at area parks.

The group provides opportunities for toddlers and their caregivers to socialize.

Michelle and Matt Henrickson attended a recent Monday meeting at the rec center with their 19-month-old daughter, Elliana, and their 1-month-old son, Jonah.

“The last time I was here, I was eight months pregnant,” Michelle said.

She said Elliana is active and loves going to the playdates.

They live by Saxeville, and Michelle is not from the area.

“It’s nice to connect with other moms. I can get parenting tips, advice. It’s someone else to relate to,” said the stay-at-home mother.

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