5 Ways Operation Little Learners Helped My Military Kid
Written by Susannah Wruk
Did you know that the Armed Services YMCA (ASYMCA) offers free preschool for military families? Operation Little Learners is a military preschool program offered at many ASYMCA locations across the country. Military mom, Julianna Burson shares her first-hand experiences during the 2.5 years that her little one attended the program.
Here are 5 ways Operation Little Learners made a meaningful difference in their military family:
1. It Helps Parents Connect with Their Kids
Operation Little Learners is first and foremost a place for military moms and dads to connect with their kids. “It is a ‘mommy and me’ style program,” explained Burson. “They expect parent involvement the entire time.”
Some things that parents can expect are singing songs, dancing, reading stories, and engaging in sensory-driven activities.
Military children go through so much between frequent PCS moves, missing their parents during long deployments, and more. Building strong connections with their kids is vital for military parents because parents are often the only consistent part of military kids’ lives. This makes Operation Little Learners, with its free preschool for military families, a valuable support for military parenting.
2. It Encourages an Early Love of Learning
“It was fun overall for the kids and they usually did really well,” Burson said. Operation Little Learners introduces various topics that pique young children’s interests, making the learning experience enjoyable and engaging. Children are encouraged to actively participate in their learning throughout the duration of the class.
3. It Helps Children Learn to Interact with Their Peers
Connection is important for all children, but military children often struggle to make strong friendships due to the frequent moves that come with military life. Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic made it even more difficult for babies and toddlers to acquire these skills.
“She was a COVID baby,” Burson said of her child. “She did not get the socialization skills she normally would have. We weren’t comfortable putting her in any sort of childcare or class until she had been vaccinated.” Operation Little Learners helped her daughter learn social skills that she had missed due to the pandemic. “She’s definitely more comfortable being in social situations now,” said Burson.
4. It Helps Foster Positive Parenting for Military Families
Operation Little Learners is designed to have a high level of parental involvement and to teach parents how to interact with their children in a nurturing way. Parents are expected to be engaged and involved in all activities during the session, promoting positive parenting for military families.
It can also help to foster connections between parents. Burson noted that she met other military moms through the program. Again, finding friends and making connections can be difficult for military families due to frequent PCS moves. Operation Little Learners is a place for parents to connect.
5. It’s Fun!
Kids learn best when they are having fun! Operation Little Learners sessions are planned with that in mind. The activities keep kids moving, singing, dancing, and playing as they learn. “I would tell her that we were going to school and she was always very excited to go,” said Burson. “Even after moving away, she still asks to go to school.”
The ASYMCA Is Here to Help
If you are interested in enrolling your child in Operation Little Learners or finding a free preschool for military families, please reach out to your local ASYMCA branch for more details. The ASYMCA also offers many more programs for service members and their families. Explore the ASYMCA webpage for more information on what services and activities may be available in your area to support your military parenting journey.