Parents can never be sure how their children will react to their first day of kindergarten. Some children hop on the bus without hesitation, and maybe slow down long enough to give a wave to their anxious parents before starting a new adventure with future friends. Others will cling, or cry, or worse, making the first day difficult for everyone involved.
A five-day, ten-hour program being offered this month by Newtown Youth & Family Services (NYFS) hopes to make that big transition much smoother for parents and children alike. Safety Town will be offered at NYFS during the weeks of July 21–25 and July 28–August 1. It will meet Monday through Friday, 9 to 11 am each day.
Safety Town was developed in 1964 as a national program to teach young children important lessons on traffic, fire, water, bus, and bicycle safety, awareness of medicine and poison, and awareness of strangers. But it has an added benefit.
“Children last year were happy to have this, and saw other kids they will probably be growing up with,” NYFS Community Coordinator Kaitlyn Johnson said last week. “With this program, they are getting the concept of interacting with others their age.
“It’s very difficult for a parent to send their child to kindergarten,” she said. “This helps everyone get a little at ease before that first day of school.”
While not part of the curriculum, Ms Johnson said Safety Town discretely offers lessons on classroom etiquette, including sitting down when told to and listening to a teacher.
This is the second year NYFS is offering Safety Town. All safety topics are taught in collaboration with local community and health agencies, including All-Star Transportation, Newtown Parks & Recreation, Newtown Police Department, Sandy Hook Fire & Rescue Company, and others.
“It is a great program that brings our community resources together with the families of Newtown,” said NYFS Operations Assistant Matt Ariniello. Children are taught what different signs and lines along the roads mean. They learn crosswalk and pedestrian safety, the importance of wearing helmets while bicycling, being aware of strangers, and when to call 911, among other lessons.
“At this age, they’re so absorbent,” said Mr Ariniello. “Kids soak up so much information. This is basically their introductory course to safety.”
NYFS staff including Ms Johnson, Mr Ariniello, and recreational therapist Angie Mavrakis also lead the program. NYFS clinical staff members serve as assistants.
“Parents last year were happy with the program overall,” said Ms Johnson. “There’s nothing else around that is solely focused on children’s safety, and that is a parent’s biggest concern.”
Cost is $25 per child for a one-week program, and financial assistance is available.
Registration has been open for a few weeks, and Ms Johnson says one of this month’s sessions is already nearly full.
“We are limited to 20 children per session, and our second session is almost at capacity,” she said on June 30.
Safety Town will be held at NYFS, 15 Berkshire Road. It is presented behind the building, and can move indoors in inclement weather. All materials are provided, including bicycles (provided by AAA) that children can ride through a miniature town that is set up as part of the program.
“They get to visit the ‘town’ every day, which is modeled after Newtown, right down to a flagpole on Main Street,” said Ms Johnson.
Snacks are served each morning, and a graduation ceremony is held at the end of each week.
Registration is requested and can be done by calling 203-426-8103 or online at www.NewtownYouthAndFamilyServices.org.
“We are very excited to be running this again,” said Ms Johnson. “It’s a good, fun program.”