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Stay, Play and Learn Provides Safe Space for Families to Connect

For more than 25 years, the Family Center’s Stay, Play and Learn (SPL) program has provided a safe space for young families to share their joys, seek support in their challenges and make lasting connections with other families in their community - all while their children learn and grow through play. With an open structure and few rules to follow, SPL not only gives children the freedom and resources to explore new activities while letting their imaginations run wild, but it also helps them to develop social skills as they play alongside their peers.

“This program really gives kids an opportunity to branch out. They learn so much from other children. It’s sort of like a first step to preschool - only less scary because your mom or dad is still in the room with you,” said SPL facilitator Sue Weiss.

The fee-based, drop-in program is not just limited to School District of Clayton residents; all families with children from birth to kindergarten entry are welcome to join. Over the years, SPL has become a gathering place both for families who have deep roots in St. Louis and those who have just moved here - sometimes from across the country or around the world. While their children are busy building block towers, digging in the sand table or creating clay masterpieces, parents, grandparents and full-time childcare providers are making connections (both in English and in their native languages), learning about resources within the community such as Parents As Teachers and discussing their children’s development with a parent educator.

“We’re often a family’s first introduction to the District,” said SPL facilitator Cathy Glaser. Families learn about the early childhood program and the District’s schools while they’re taking part in our program. We’ve had families move to the District because they want their children to continue on through our schools.”

SPL is currently open on Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings from 9:15-11:30 a.m., and on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons from 3:30-5 p.m. The program also has select weekend hours. Twice each month, families can participate in “Fun Friday” activities, which include storytime, exploring big motors, cooking lessons or a walk on the nature trail. A library of books for children and parents is also available to SPL members.

“We really work on helping families make connections while providing a safe, comfortable space for children to learn,” added Glaser. “This program creates a wonderful sense of community - if you’ve been to our program, you know there’s just a great feeling in the room.”

Visit to learn more about the program.