How Operation Little Learners Helped My Military Child

Written by Tessarose Brown


Life with young children is a wild ride. Add in the challenges military families face, such as frequent PCS moves and deployment, and things can be extremely difficult. In addition, studies have shown that children of all ages experience more emotional and behavioral problems when their parents are deployed.

But the Armed Services YMCA (ASYMCA) programs for military families like Operation Little Learners benefit military families like mine with children ages 2-5 in a few ways. Not only does the program improve access to early education and child development, it also fosters the relationship between parent and child. Participating families also create connections with other military families — helping them forge supportive friendships.

What’s most amazing about this program is that it provides support for military families with young children free of cost. As a first-time mom and new military spouse, I always look for resources and programs for my military child, which is why we enjoyed the Operation Little Learners program at the Fort Liberty Armed Services YMCA (formerly Fort Bragg). My daughter looked forward to seeing her friends, learning, and playing each week, and I could engage her in activities I otherwise would never have set up for her. Here’s more on the benefits my family received from the program.


Enhanced Familial Bonds

In Operation Little Learners, parents are encouraged to connect with their young children through play and teacher-directed activities. The goal is to support military families by helping parents learn to be the primary educator for their military child by providing them with the space, time, supplies, and lesson plans. Twice a week, for two hours, parents get to spend quality time with their children.


Designated Time, Structured Lesson Plans, and Supplies Make a Difference

Structure and a plan are important when you’re a parent to a young child, and Operation Little Learners provided my daughter and me with that. Here’s how:

  • Designated time: Having a scheduled outing and specified time set aside helped me as a first-time stay-at-home mom who does not have a set routine at home.
  • Structured Lesson Plans: For me, it was great to be given direction on learning activities that could be replicated at home.
  • Supplies: My daughter discovered a love and fascination for bugs and dinosaurs just by playing with toys that were available to her at Operation Little Learners that we didn’t have at home.

I’m not the kind of parent who particularly enjoys arts and crafts or any messy activity in my home. So at home, my daughter was missing out on those kinds of activities. Going to Operation Little Learners really helped bridge the gap in her play and education. She could come to the program and play with paints, clay, slime, and even in the dirt, and I didn’t have to buy supplies, set up, or clean up.


Encouraged Military Child Development

I have minimal experience working with young children. So when I found myself staying at home full time with my daughter, I was in a panic, trying to figure out how to give her both academic and social learning experiences. Operation Little Learners eased my anxiety significantly. Of course, my daughter still reads and learns through play at home, but having a classroom for her to go to, being able to assess, correct, and encourage her social behaviors, and participate in structured play helps me prepare her for daycare and school settings.


Connected Us to a Supportive Community

One of the most difficult parts of being in a military family is the feeling of isolation from both our immediate families and our local community. CNN reported that more than a third of military families who participated in the Blue Star Families’ tenth annual Military Lifestyles Survey said they have no one to ask for a favor. The poll also found that isolation from family and friends has grown as a key stressor, ranked even higher by military families than deployments.

Operation Little Learners supports military families by providing parents the opportunity to access and build a community of support. Parents interact with people who get what living a military life looks and feels like, whether it be good, bad, beautiful, or ugly. Parents have a place and people to vent to, ask for advice, form friendships, and network.

“It was so refreshing to be around other parents of young children. In just a few weeks, I saw relationships grow between the kids and the parents. Now I have people I can ask for advice on where they take their kids on the weekends, where the best ice cream shop is, and where I can find help with budgeting.”


No Military Family Left Behind

Operation Little Learners is just one of many ASYMCA programs that supports military families. While programs vary by location, they focus on helping military families deal with the unique challenges of military life so they’re never alone. You can help support ASYMCA programs by giving today.


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