By Deb Silverthorn
Early childhood meet-ups are relaunching at the Aaron Family Jewish Community Center and other spots. Through the J Baby programs, young children, their parents and caregivers are building connections.
“As the center of the community, we are so happy to welcome our little ones and their people to the J, to create their community and develop the earliest bonds of friendship,” said Aaron Family JCC CEO Artie Allen. “People love the opportunity to gather, and to see these little faces and hear the giggles as they walk down our halls is just the best.”
For babies born just before or during the pandemic and their loved ones, in-person relationship-building had been put on hold. The J Baby program has created a full calendar, with an event at Campbell Green on Friday, to foster early friendships while following Centers for Disease Control guidelines, including masking inside and socially distancing outside.
“We’re just thrilled to reboot our programs, to rekindle our sense of togetherness and to forge the mom friends, the dad friends and the baby friends into being,” said Tara Ohayon, director of early childhood at Aaron Family JCC. “Parenting is not at all easy and doing it together makes a huge difference.”
Here are some upcoming opportunities:
• Bagels & Babies, for pregnant mothers, new moms and newborn babies up to 1 year, is for many a first-time out-of-the-home experience. The free opportunity to schmooze, share a meal or snacks, learn and be together meets twice a month and has featured topics such as baby-led weaning and tummy time, as well as guest experts including pediatric dentist Dr. Matthew Schwed and Rest to Your Nest Sleep Coach Mary Cantwell.
At 11 a.m. on Nov. 17 outside at the J, Crystal Lucha of the Goldberg Early Childhood Center will introduce Lovevery play kits and share ways to play with a baby from day one.
“Our two best friends, Sam’s and mine, came out of Bagels & Babies and we continue to play together and be a huge part of each other’s lives,” said Emmaline Rosenthal, who started participating when Sam, her first child, was still a baby. Now, with newborn Eleanor in tow, she’s excited to be back at the J. “I’m so incredibly happy to be back, to introduce Eleanor and to catch up and give her the same opportunity.”
A leader with Tinkergarden, a play-based outdoor curriculum, Rosenthal will bring her baby and her expertise to Bagels & Babies at 11 a.m. on Dec. 1. She looks forward to sharing her program of outside learning through play, the safety risks and how to live this best time in a family’s life while getting dirty.
Rachel Wagner, the J’s youth and teen services director, had her first child, Eleanor, just four months ago. In a year when playgroups are scarce, she’s glad the J is happening for her little one.
“I grew up at the J. It’s where I went to preschool, camp, gymnastics and now it’s where I work and I couldn’t be happier for Ellie’s first place of connecting to be here,” said Wagner, who looks forward to sharing in J Baby programs with her husband Mark and Eleanor. “We’re firsttimers just learning what to do and the experts have been so interesting and sharing all that’s new, and with other people going through it together, it’s great.”
• Parent & Me meets for children 12 to 24 months from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. on Tuesdays through Dec. 14, for infants six to 12 months from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m.; and for newborns to age six months from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Thursdays through Dec. 16. The program provides hands-on experiences that include sensory play, music, art, stories and outdoor time.
In addition to on-site programming, J Baby is boarding the J on Wheels trailer to bring Tot Shabbat to Campbell Green park in Far North Dallas beginning Friday.
Play on Wheels is the J on the road at 10:30 a.m. on Friday, Nov. 5, bringing Tot Shabbat to Campbell Green Park in North Dallas. Borrowing the J on Wheels trailer, classes and events will be making their way to other areas of the community. A free program for families with children ages six and younger, Shabbat-related art, story-telling, challah and grape juice will be shared along with blessings and songs.
In addition to the Play on Wheels Tot Shabbat, the trailer hopes to gather and help make neighborhood connections throughout the community.
“Bring us your cranky, bring us your tired, bring us your runarounds,” said Ohayon. “Lifetime friendships are happening here and we’re just so happy to be back.”
For a complete calendar of J Baby programs and events, visit jccdallas.org/jbaby