Sarasota-Manatee parents find lifeline in parenting and play programs


As the puppets came out and the music started, 2-year-old Iyesha Pramudyasworo watched, wide-eyed and hesitant.

Staying close to her mother’s side, Iyesha watched intently as a tiger and a bear, a crocodile and a pig – perched on the others’ hands – launched into the early morning song.

“There’s a spider on your face, on your face,” the group sang, the moms playfully tickling their toddlers’ chins.

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Before too long, Iyesha was off exploring, joining parent educator Rocio Gormley on a blanket in the grass, then stomping on the dinosaur walk and swinging at the hokey-pokey – even stopping at one point to hug in his arms a little smaller.

For Iyesha’s mother, the morning was more than singing and dancing.

After three or four months in the Musical Motion program at Parenting Matters in Sarasota, Iyesha was showing significant signs of learning and growing.

Erica Pramudyasworo puts her daughter, Isabella's hair in a ponytail during the Musical Motion program.

Born a month premature, Iyesha exhibited developmental delays as an infant in crawling and later in speech, said her mother, Erica Pramudyasworo, 42, of Sarasota. Also, since Pramudyasworo had to go back to work as a caregiver right after Iyesha was born, she brought Iyesha with her.

“Childcare is so expensive that you basically work to pay for childcare,” she said.

Surrounded by working adults from Pramudyasworo for the first part of her life, Iyesha showed no emotions or affection. Pramudyasworo and her husband thought she might have autism.

But thanks to stimulation from Musical Motion and in-home support from Parenting Matters, Iyesha is now interacting and loving smaller babies, she said. His physical and verbal abilities skyrocketed, Iyesha speaking and walking now.

“These programs are amazing,” she added. “I can’t say enough about them.”

Parenting educators with Parenting Matters, Jenny McConachy, left, and Rocio Gormley, right, lead the group in a song during the Musical Motion program.

For many stay-at-home moms and working parents who don’t have access to or can’t afford preschool or expensive child care with early learning programs, community programs like Musical Motion offer crucial alternatives for children in the birth to 5 years – known to be a critical factor. stage of the child’s cognitive and physical development.

Complementing a host of support services Parenting Matters offers caregivers – from personalized home visits to coaching on potty training, nutrition or discipline strategies – Musical Motion promotes development through early learning tools tested: music and games.

“Studies show that dance and rhythm help develop brain and spatial awareness,” said Bridget Harry, director of development for Parenting Matters.

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And Musical Motion isn’t just for kids, she added. Available in English and Spanish throughout Manatee County for 17 years and recently expanded to Sarasota County, the program provides parenting education and a social support system to many isolated stay-at-home moms.

Not only are moms and dads comparing notes on what they’re going through, but parenting educators like Gormley and Jenny McConachy teach them activities and approaches they can use at home to help develop motor skills, d literacy and learning for their children.

Pramudyasworo says she appreciates the support of other mothers and also the advice of parent educators on how to respond to Iyesha.

“Sometimes I feel like screaming, I don’t know what to do or what she’s trying to tell me,” she said.

Diana Ranfla carries her son, Osleih Mendez, 13 months, under a colorful canopy held aloft by other mothers from the Musical Motion programme.

In addition to the role that play comes with in learning, it also helps children bond with parents and other primary caregivers, said Laura Josephson, director of parenting education at Forty Carrots Family Center.

Forty Carrots offers Partners in Play at libraries in Manatee and Sarasota counties throughout the year. It also operates a kindergarten, a free summer pre-kindergarten, and several parent education and therapy programs for children and families.

Partners in Play, free to the public, is open to the first 10 families to arrive at the libraries for the one-hour sessions.

Designed for children from birth to 5 years old, the main carers play on the floor with the children, with fun activities and songs focusing on the development of language, cognitive, motor and emotional development, she said.

“Between 0 and 5, it’s child labor,” Josephson said of the game. “That’s how they learn.”

In addition to early learning, focused exploration through play creates important emotional connections.

“It creates this attachment to their parents,” she said.

During this hour, parent educators also make time to talk to caregivers about family issues or developmental issues, with free follow-up consultations available for serious issues, if needed.

Like Musical Motion, Partners in Play makes early learning programs available to many families who cannot access or afford expensive day care centers and preschools.

“We know that 91% of children who attend our group programs do not attend other early learning programs before kindergarten,” Josephson said.

Many are working families whose incomes are too high to qualify for government subsidies but not enough to pay childcare out of pocket, especially amid soaring rents and other housing costs. life on the rise, she said.

“Sometimes daycares and preschools get a little out of reach,” added Carla Johanns, program director at Forty Carrots.

Fabiola Cigarroa and her 13-month-old son Gael recently participated in the Musical Motion program at the Glasser/Shoenbaum Human Services Center in Sarasota.

For Fabiola Cigarroa, 35, community programs are a godsend. She and 13-month-old Gael joined Iyesha and her mother on a recent matinee at Musical Motion.

They also attend programs at libraries, finding daycare programs too expensive, Cigarroa said.

“Because he’s our first child, we don’t have any other ideas,” she said of how she and her husband felt limited before they started learning about programs and other mothers. to help their son thrive. They’ve seen a difference in him since she started bringing him to Musical Motion over the past five months.

“He’s more outgoing now, he’s outgoing,” she said in Spanish of Gael.

In addition, the schedule of the various sites adapts perfectly to the schedule of the family.

“It’s not in the middle of nap time,” she said. “It’s perfect.”


This story comes from a partnership between the Sarasota Herald-Tribune and the Community Foundation of Sarasota County. Saundra Amrhein covers the Season of Sharing campaign, as well as housing, utilities, childcare and transportation issues in the region. She can be contacted at


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