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Scotty MacDonald, left, and Kevin Hammer play at the hourly child-care facility playground on Warner Barracks in Bamberg, Germany, on Sept. 5. The new program lets children learn through playing.
Scotty MacDonald, left, and Kevin Hammer play at the hourly child-care facility playground on Warner Barracks in Bamberg, Germany, on Sept. 5. The new program lets children learn through playing. (Cheryl Boujnida / U.S. Army)

BAMBERG, Germany — Parents of small children on Warner Barracks will tell you two things about the new hourly child-care service.

It is not baby-sitting, and it fills a need in the community.

Under the program, which began in mid-July, each family registered with the Child and Youth Services Central Registration Office can use up to 10 hours of care per child each week, said Scott Goin, the hourly program director. In addition, soldiers ranked specialist or below get 10 free hours a month.

Hourly care is an alternative to full-day care for those who need help for just a short time. The cost is $4 per hour.

None of the children, ages 6 weeks to 5 years, sit hypnotized in front of the television. In fact, the facility doesn’t even have a TV.

The children, even the infants, spend their time at the facility exploring and learning.

“We have a curriculum and we always have a theme. Right now, it’s fall,” Goin said.

“There is no TV, not during hourly care. We believe in educating the children. Even the youngest children can learn things about shapes and colors.”

The colorful facility boasts hundreds of toys, an art corner and an outdoor playground that the children use every day that the weather is fair, Goin said.

Additionally, all children at the facility during the lunch hour sit down to a home-style meal.

“They help set the table and serve themselves,” Goin said. “Everybody is treated the same. It can get messy, but the benefit is that even infants are learning to feed themselves.”

While this may lead to a big mess to clean up at the facility and some dirty clothes for mom or dad to wash, the benefit is worth it, said Leah Rasmussen, a family member whose daughter Elizabeth is in hourly care about two hours a day.

“She’s not even two yet, and she’s washing her hands at meal time and cleaning up her own plate,” Rasmussen said.

“In my opinion, kids are not learning if they are not getting dirty. An extra outfit or two in the wash is not going to kill me.”

The environment at the center, where the kids are often with others in their age group, makes learning seem like playing.

“Every time I walk in there, they are engaged,” said Karen Gatto, another family member. “It is an academic environment. [The staff] has a unique grasp on early development where playing is learning.”

“It’s nice to take her to a place for a couple hours a day where she can play with other kids her age,” Rasmussen, who is enrolled in five college courses, said of her daughter.

“They educate her and feed her, and by the time I pick her up, she’s ready for a nap. That gives me another hour to study.”

“There were not a lot of child-care options in this community, so this has been great for us.”

The program was designed with people like Rasmussen in mind, parents with activities that their children cannot attend.

“This is perfect for parents who have to make a medical appointment, or go shopping or run errands,” Goin said.

“It allows stay-at-home parents the opportunity to volunteer, to make appointments or to work out,” said Judy Bullock, family member.

“I volunteer pretty heavily in the community, and I know that [3-year-old son Gavin] has a wonderful time there. That’s all that’s important to me.”

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