GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Kathy Burns says she feels like a grandmother to the 200 children who visit her each week for the Bear Cub Club at Lynn Meadows Discovery Center in Gulfport.
"It's kind of like a big warm fuzzy family that we have here. The Bear Cub Club is a structured, unstructured program designed for children zero to five. And my mission is to enrich these children educationally, socially, emotionally."
Burns inspires all the imagination that makes this unique class come to life. She taught second graders for 34 years. Now she's hoping to help other little ones prepare for Kindergarten.
"The main thing in here is they're listening, they're following directions, they're watching another adult," explains Burns. "They are interacting with an adult that is not their mother, and that is how the process starts."
Whether it's dancing with bears, or hopping like frogs, children and their parents are stimulated by music and imagination.
"It's not just sitting in front of the TV and doing the normal types of things," says Bear Cub Club mom, Leah Ethridge. "It's that interactive music, reading and art that's really important for children, and I think some people have gotten away from that too much."
Stay at home parents also recognize that getting their children in a social setting early on, can really make the transition into school go a bit smoother. Also, being with other children helps them learn much faster.
Amy Cliett and her children have been Bear Club members for more the past five years.
"Everyone always comments about how smart they are already," says Cliett. "It makes me feel better because I actually feel like I'm doing something."
"You know even the Kindergartner today is expected to do so many more things than 20 years ago," says Burns. "You have to start at a much earlier age to educate your child before they ever get to school."
And thanks to the magic of Lynn Meadows, these little Bears are learning valuable skills that will help them excel for years to come.
Bear Cub Club meets Tuesday through Friday from 10 until Noon, with a short break in the summer. Again, it's for children zero to five, and available to Lynn Meadows members for only $25 a year.
If you'd like to learn more about how to help your child excel before age five, click here.
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