Learning & Growing by Playing: Kaleidoscope Play & Learn

Where could you see young children and their parents, grandparents, neighbors, and caregivers singing, playing, dancing, and learning all together? With play groups spanning from Enumclaw to Shoreline, parents and caregivers can join in on the fun at a Kaleidoscope Play and Learn group near them!

Over the past 3 years, Best Starts has partnered with communities across King County to establish 22 Kaleidoscope Play and Learn groups to promote positive and healthy outcomes for our youngest children and support parents and caregivers as they prepare their young ones for kindergarten.

Kaleidoscope Play & Learn groups (KPL) are free, weekly 90+ minute drop-in play groups led by community facilitators that engage children and their caregivers in culturally and developmentally appropriate play activities. Through peer to peer and hands-on activities, parents and caregivers learn what they can do at home to support their children’s growth. Meeting together once a week, this time together for parents and caregivers also provides a sense of community and mutual support.

Due to the pandemic, we were unable to collect the data points shown above for 2020. We look forward to hearing back from community this year.

The KPL play groups reach children not enrolled in formal early learning programs and their parents and family, friends, and neighbor (FFN) caregivers with a focus on engaging families furthest from opportunity. In 2020 alone, 6,846 children, parents, and family, friend and neighbor (FFN) caregivers participated in Best Starts KPL weekly groups throughout King County.

Read our earlier blog post to learn more about the KPL.

When the pandemic emerged in March 2020, Best Starts partners’ facilitators were able to build off established community relationships and quickly respond to emerging needs through creative and flexible solutions. Staying connected to community was critical to parents and caregivers navigating the challenges that the pandemic brought.

While each partner has uniquely adapted to meet their community’s specific needs during the pandemic, most partners have adapted their services by pivoting online and staying connected with families through social media, virtual recordings, and live virtual gatherings. To ensure that families can access basic needs and other critical supports during the pandemic, partners have also connected with families one-on-one.

The KPL model is grounded in what our communities know is best for our children and backed by the latest research in child development and related fields. Developed by Child Care Resources, a nonprofit supporting childcare providers across King and Pierce Counties, the KPL model was created with the guidance of community members representing community-based organizations, ethnic/cultural communities, public libraries, schools, public health, and funders. The model was also designated as a Promising Practice by the University of Washington’s Evidence-Based Practice Institute in 2013.

In 2018, Best Starts partnered with community-based organizations and Child Care Resources to add 31 additional weekly KPL play groups to families across King County. By expanding KPL support across King County, our community partners have reached more families and language communities who have not previously participated in KPL and integrated in innovative approaches.

Meet our KPL partners on the Best Starts Awards Database and find a KPL group here.

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