Life with a toddler can be quite chaotic. Add in military life. . . and it becomes even more so. It’s a good thing that there are resources that can help you along your parenting journey during some of the most difficult years of raising a child.
MOPS stands for Mothers of Preschoolers. This is a group that meets twice a month for anyone with a child who is preschool age or younger. There are military MOPS programs as well as off-base MOPS programs. MOPS is a Christian organization; however, you do not have to be religious to join and it is not a Bible study. At the meetings, you will have a chance to meet other moms, eat some food, and learn more about what it means to be a mother. Your local MOPS groups will have play dates that you can go to as well. You can find your local MOPS group here.
2. Armed Services YMCA
These YMCAs are on military installations and offer a lot to the community. They have daily playgroups, monthly family dinners, water play dates, movie nights, and more. You can check and see if there are any Armed Services YMCAs near you. ASYMCA Affiliate Branches provide limited services and programs at your local YMCA or on-base.
3. CDC/Hourly care
Child Development Centers are on-base child care centers. They usually offer full-day, part-day, and hourly care for children from six weeks to kindergarten. Hourly can be ideal for parents with toddlers. The cost is low, and they can put the child in for just a couple of hours while they do grocery shopping or have coffee with a friend. The full-time and part-time options work well when both parents are working full-time.
4. Daddy Dolls
Daddy Dolls are an excellent way to have something for your child to hug and kiss while Dad or Mom is away. You provide a photo of your service member, and a doll is produced using that photo. Small children love these dolls and enjoy having a piece of their absent parent around to hold whenever they want.
5. Sesame Street
Sesame Street has quite a few resources for toddlers on many different topics: Grief, deployments, military homecomings, injuries, relocation, routines, and self-expression. They have Talk, Listen, and Connect DVD videos, a Sesame Street/USO tour, PBS specials, and Sesame rooms.
6. Parent day-out programs
These programs are ideal for parents who want to start preschool or just get some time to themselves. The hours will vary but are usually three hours long or more and can be found in your local community. There will be a cost, but many are affordable as they are trying to provide a safe place for your child to play.
7. New parent support programs
There are new parent support programs on most military installations. These are for those with children under four for the Army, Navy, and Air Force and under six for the Marine Corps. This program offers a lot of resources for new parents and those trying to figure out how to be the best parent they can. They can provide home visits, parenting classes with free childcare, workshops, play mornings, breastfeeding classes, and more depending on your installation. To find out what is available where you are, you can search this database.