Greater Harrisburg's Community Magazine

Play, Learn: New WITF play area opens in Harrisburg’s Hamilton Health Center

Families play in the new “Family Play and Learn” space in the Hamilton Health Center.

Harrisburg kids have a new way to play at Hamilton Health Center.

On Wednesday, officials from PNC Bank, WITF and Hamilton Health cut the ribbon on a new “Family Play and Learn Space” for children visiting the healthcare center in Allison Hill.

“This is going to be able to build on the literacy and strength of family bonds in an excellent way to improve the quality of life for our community’s families,” said Hamilton Health Chief Executive Officer Jeannine Peterson.

The play space will benefit low-income families in the Women Infants and Children (WIC) supplemental nutrition program. It is located in Hamilton Health’s WIC center, so only those in the program can access it. According to Peterson, the WIC center serves 5,600 families.

While there was a small play area before for children to use while parents received assistance at the center, Peterson said that it was nothing like the new one.

“This is much more structured learning,” she said.

The space includes tables and small couches, toys and children’s books in English and Spanish. Families can also sign out PBS Kids Playtime tablets, which feature educational games and programming while they are in the center.

In the future, WITF will hold family storytimes and character meet and greets, said Blake Lynch, WITF senior vice president and chief impact officer.

“We all know the joy a child experiences when engaging with a loved one and reading a great story,” Lynch said. “It sparks interest in reading and learning, as well. That spark can carry with them throughout their lives.”

In total, PNC sponsored the creation of six play and learn spaces across Lancaster, York and Harrisburg with a $75,000 grant. Besides the Hamilton Health location, three other facilities have been finished already.

“We see the play and learn spaces as a creative way to turn what would otherwise be unstructured waiting time into an opportunity for children to learn,” said PNC Bank’s Regional President for Central PA Jim Hoehn. “When our youngest learners thrive and prosper, so do the communities they will one day lead.”

Hamilton Health Center is located at 110 S. 17th St., Harrisburg. For more information about WITF’s “Family Play and Learn” program, visit their website.

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