Maureen Bloom just wanted to make sure kids had somewhere to play safely. When a local church playschool program was put on hold 16 years ago, parents resorted to arranging playdates among each other, so their children could socialize in a structured environment. Given her background in education, at the other mothers encouraging, Maureen took it upon herself to make those meetings more regular, more dependable. And Maureen Blooms Playdates was born.
Today, Playdates has sprouted 14 groups in Darien, New Canaan and Rowayton. In some ways, its structured just like any other school. It runs from September to June, 32 weeks a year. Children are split up into classes of eight, all of the same age group. (In this case, its 18 to 36 months old.) And each group is run by a pair of qualified teachers, leading music, art, and cooking activities as well as playtime.
But, in keeping with its name, Maureens program doesnt have a single, central schoolhouse. It has dozens of them. Each class rotates among each familys home week-to-week. Whats unique about Playdates is the home setting, Bloom said. Its a natural, warm environment. And children love having friends come to the house.
Each of the programs teachers are well-qualified, with at least a Bachelors degree and training in first aid and CPR. But Maureen stresses that Playdates is more than just a job to them. [Theyre] wonderful doers in the community, she said of her staff. Theyre all mothers themselves, who have decided not to go back to work full time. They just love children.
Maureen is a doer in the community herself. In addition to Playdates, she teaches a religious education class at St. John Catholic Church. She volunteers with the Childrens Aid Society, which helps underprivileged children and families. She works with TOPS, a program that runs activities for middle school students. Shes also heavily involved in the Parent-Teacher Organizations at both Tokeneke Elementary and Middlesex School. But that all extends from what may be her toughest job. She find time to do all of this, all while raising three children of her own.
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