GiGi’s Playhouse for Down Syndrome Support Opens in the Twin Cities
While some dreaded the cold days of February, many cheered with celebration as GiGi’s Playhouse Twin Cities officially opened its doors on February 9. For families affected by Down syndrome in the Twin Cities, GiGi’s Playhouse is a welcome network of support, play groups and educational opportunities for children, siblings, adults and the community. They provide therapeutic activities to encourage speech- language development, fine motor skills, gross motor, math and literacy.
GiGi’s Playhouse was started by Nancy Gianni out of a Chicago suburb and has grown internationally. Currently, 12 locations span the United States (including Chicago, New York, Atlanta, and Nashville) and Mexico. Nancy began the first playhouse in 2003, inspired by her daughter who was born with Down syndrome. Over the years, the organization has developed a focus on national awareness for Down syndrome. The organization is volunteer driven and programs offered to families are free of charge and therapeutic in nature.
GiGi’s Playhouse is as much for parents as it is for children. For parents who have just been given a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome, GiGi’s Playhouse encourages and supports families at the facility to provide education, networking and a glimpse of what to expect. The meetings are titled “Positive Beginnings” and help families (including siblings) adjust and discuss their feelings towards this new journey. For families with children who have Down syndrome, they can receive ongoing support through the current network of parents who offer support and friendship.
GiGi’s Playhouse offers lots of room to move and jump around. The facility boasts large play spaces and a variety of therapeutic toys. According to their website, their current programs include:
Open Play: This program is for all ages. This program promotes networking and socializing for families with children of all ages with Down syndrome.
2 & Under: This program facilitates and strengthens the skills in children learning to walk and crawl.
Hop, Skip & Jumpers: (Ages 3-5) This program promotes friendship, social skills, and interactive play through creative and educational activies for preschool and kindergarten age children.
Teen-Tastic: This group promotes friendship, social interaction, and communication through a variety of social activities, outings, and games for teens ages 13-18.
Family Fun Night: This program promotes positive beginnings for families with a focus on positive social interaction among peers and siblings.
Playhouse Pals: (Ages 6-12) This program promotes friendship, social skills, and communication through creative and social activities.
Educational resources such as math and literacy instruction are essential to the mission of GiGi’s Playhouse and often a fundamental need for students with Down syndrome. The literacy program provides trained tutors who work at the level of the child using custom flashcards and books as well as computer resources and games. The literacy program aims to address the areas of speech, language and reading including: articulation, sight word recognition, vocabulary and comprehension.
For students struggling in math, GiGi’s Playhouse also offers a math program. Their curriculum is based on techniques of TouchMath and Numicon- both are multi-sensory math teaching programs using shapes and touchpoints in a series of practical teaching activities.
If these programs, volunteering, or starting a GiGi’s Playhouse in your area sounds interesting, contact at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 952-926-3660. Visit the new facility is located at 4740 Park Glen Road, St. Louis Park, MN.