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In-Office Play Group Offers Doctors Perspective on Patients

Medical residents looking to get a better understanding of the behavior of babies, toddlers, and preschoolers in Olympia, Wash., can now do so by taking a break with them at a weekly play group hosted right inside their own medical offices.

Every Monday, the Kaleidoscope Play & Learn program sets up blocks and clay for 90 minutes inside a conference room at Providence St. Peter Family Medicine, said Fran Williams, the program manager with the Child Care Action Council, a nonprofit group that offers the free program in partnership with the medical facility for children under the age of 5 and their caregivers.

The effort is two-fold: Medical residents practicing at the neighboring hospital, as well as caregivers, gain a better sense of typical child behavior and the importance of play, Williams said in an interview.

"Play matters," she said. "It is intentional ... and truly useful" in learning, she said.

Many of the families who participate came to the medical offices during pregnancy, she said. She hopes eventually to offer wraparound services like dental information and pediatric well visits at the play group. Even financial literacy classes may be added.

Eventually, Williams imagines that caregivers who now visit the play group will be trained to facilitate it.

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