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YMCA Enriches and Educates the Youngest Members of Twin Cities Communities


Eighty percent of a child's brain is developed by the time they are three years old. A child's experiences and relationships influence the brain's architecture as it develops, according to the Harvard Center for the Developing Child.

· Research has shown that play is an effective vehicle for learning because it enhances language development, social skills, creativity, imagination and problem solving.

· According to the National Center for Education Statistics, first-time kindergarteners whose families' socioeconomic status was in the lowest 20 percent consistently scored 7-15 points lower than their peers on reading, math and science tests.

The YMCA of the Greater Twin Cities, a leading nonprofit dedicated to strengthening communities through youth development, healthy living and social responsibility, offers child care and preschool opportunities at its early childhood centers, which give children ages six weeks to five years a safe, nurturing environment that allows them to develop key skills at their own pace.

Studies show that early childhood is a key time for social and cognitive development. However, child care can be expensive, and lack of access sets kids back. Children from low-income families can also face the risk of receiving inadequate care. To help address this achievement gap early on, the Y works with families to make quality early childhood learning affordable for all.

"The Y's mission is to get every child ready for kindergarten and to ignite their passion for learning," said Stephanie Thomas, executive director of child care for the Y. "Our team of child care experts give kids opportunities to be inquisitive and learn through play."

Thomas added that the Y's child care programs, which have earned national accreditation by the National Association for the Education of Young Children, are designed to motivate kids intellectually, socially, emotionally and physically. Play-based learning at the Y gives kids the chance to explore freely through:

· sensory activities that help with math and science comprehension

· arts and humanities projects that develop fine motor skills

· physical activities and nutritious food to encourage healthy habits

· swimming and water safety classes in a safe aquatic environment

· enrichment opportunities, including music & movement classes and an introduction to languages like Spanish or American Sign Language

These activities help to develop skills like critical thinking, communication and creativity. The Y offers a warm and welcoming environment in which every child can thrive. Most importantly, children have a place to grow with the guidance of caring adults while their parents are at work.

Discover how the Y welcomed Mia and her grandmother Kathy and became a beacon of love and learning - Mia's Story.

Learn how working mom Joanna found a second family for her two sons at the Y - Israel and Kasch's Story.

Often, a parent's work day does not begin and end with their child's school bell. To bridge the gap, many Y locations also provide school age care for students in kindergarten to 5th grade. Their buses pick up and drop off at the Y, and they spend time in quality programming while their parents finish their shifts. Some of these programs are run in the schools themselves, and the Y also offers extended programming on school release days.

Because the Y is a leading nonprofit committed to helping all children and families learn, grow and thrive, financial assistance is available to those in need to ensure all have the opportunity to participate in Y programs. To learn more about the Y's child care programs, please visit

About the YMCA of the Greater Twin Cities

The YMCA of the Greater Twin Cities is a leading nonprofit dedicated to strengthening communities through youth development, healthy living and social responsibility. Established in 1856 in St. Paul, 160 years ago, and a decade later in Minneapolis, the Ys provide life-strengthening services across 12 counties of the greater Twin Cities metro region and western Wisconsin communities. The 27 Y locations and program sites, seven overnight camps, 10 day camps, and more than 90 child care sites engage nearly a quarter million men, women and children of all ages, incomes and backgrounds. To learn more about the Y's mission and work, visit our website at


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