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Playmates 2012: 'It's Going to Be a Great Growing Experience'

The Parks & Recreation summer program is for children ages 3 to 5.

Toddlers in Monroe Parks & Recreation's Playmates program spend summer days doing finger painting and other arts and crafts, using blocks and participating in dramatic play with puppets. They learn about food preparation, play with friends outside, eat lunch and relax with a story-time. This year, field trips will be added to the mix, as children visit places like Silverman's Farm in Easton, which has orchards, gardens and a petting zoo.

The program is housed in Chalk Hill School and Karen Mucherino is the director. Aside from the field trips, another new wrinkle will be extended day for parents who work.

"I'm excited about all the changes," Mucherino said, during a recent interview at Starbucks. "I love that we're bringing them all on field trips. I love that they will have their own classrooms. I think it's going to be a great growing experience."

Playmates, which is not part of Summer Fun Days, will be held on the second floor at Chalk Hill, with classrooms for three-, four- and five-year-olds. Mucherino, who is in her third year with Playmates, said this will be the first time it is offered to five-year-olds.

The program will be held from July 2 - Aug. 24 (it will be closed on July 4). Including field trips, the cost is $125 a week for Monroe residents and $135 a week for non-residents. There is an additional $90 charge for extended day with field trips.

There is either a $25 per week discount for families signing up more than one child for Playmates or a 10 percent discount for those who enroll their child(ren) for seven or more weeks.

Regular hours are 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and extended day is 1 to 5:30 p.m. More details are in the brochure in the pdf file with this story.

Two counselors in training (volunteering two-to-three weeks at a time) are needed for each classroom. There are also paid counselor positions. Candidates can be high school age or adults. To apply, email Karen Mucherino at playmates345@gmail.com.

A Family Affair

Mucherino's daughter, Kristen, a graduate of Masuk High School's Class of 2007, will teach at Playmates this summer. She will graduate from Western Connecticut State University in May, where she is studying to become an elementary school teacher.

Kristen had volunteered at Summer Fun Days — a camp for older children — for seven years. At Playmates, she will be a theme specialist.

"I'm excited about about all the changes this year," Kristen said. "I think it will bring a lot to the program."

Mucherino herself has been employed at public schools in Fairfield County for 14 years.

Among some of Playmates' highlights, she said, "I love cooking week. That's my favorite — the Italian in me."

The children love seeing the truck when firefighters visit to talk about fire safety, according to Mucherino. She said the children also get excited over trips to Wolfe Park, hopping off the bus as if they had never been to the park before.

Of the toddlers, Mucherino said, "They come week after week and you get to know them and their families."

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