Partner Spotlight: Playing to Learn

COF23 group photo

This piece was featured in the 2019 Community Impact Report.

Inclusive Play to Learn is the Children’s Museum of Tacoma’s free drop-in kindergarten readiness program offered at 25 sites across Pierce County. Our sites extend as far west as Key Peninsula and out east to Bonney Lake. Our goal is to be within a 20-30 minute drive from any child in the county.

We take the program out to community centers, schools or libraries. We come in with our toys and supplies, play and learn with families for 90-minutes a week and then pack up the van to move on to the next spot. We support caregivers and their kids, which range from birth to six years of age.

Inclusive Play to Learn was created 11 years ago after learning that a large portion of children in the area weren’t in any kind of licensed child care, but rather at home with neighbors or family members who probably didn’t have training in childhood development. By offering support and learning to a child’s adult caregiver, we are building the caregiver’s ability to support their child’s development in the future. Children benefit from intentional, quality learning experiences. It builds parenting skills that extend throughout the child’s growth as they enter school and move toward a more independent learning.

The goal is getting children ready to learn by exploring independently and joining a learning community. If a child has a positive experience in learning while playing with others, it makes it easier to have a good experience learning in academics later.


Charlene Balansay is the Program Manager at the Children’s Museum of Tacoma, which provides Inclusive Play to Learn in partnership with community organizations and institutions.