Pamela Chan, Editorial/BCFamily.ca
Since my twins were born, my head has been pretty much face down in front of my feet. New ventures take some planning and are slow to reach fruition. Not long after the twins were born, I did attend sessions held by nurses in the local Round House Community Centre in Yaletown. Once the children were able to crawl, parents were invited to join a different group. At this point I had to pull out of the classes. Going into a confined space with children crawling in two different directions and getting into the space of other women’s babies was not my idea of a good plan. In the year that followed, my household has been consumed with details surrounding selling our condo, temporary accommodations and moving to the suburbs. Simply getting through the day, providing healthy meals, regular naps, maintaining an organized environment and organizing opportunities to play and learn at home has been my main priority.
After two months in our new home, a light bulb went off in my mind. I’ve been trying to find play group options without too much success. I have joined various Meetup.com groups but haven’t had too much luck so far. Although there are some opportunities on the horizon. Then I remembered that four years ago they started an early learning programme in this area for pre-Kindergarten children. Why this programme had not been in the forefront of my mind, I can’t tell you. One of my space cadet moments, as the expression goes! A few minutes of research on Google brought me to the Strong Start programme information for my neighbourhood elementary school (which is just up the road). It turns out this school was a pilot school for the programme four years ago.
The very next day, armed with my children’s birth certificates and proof of residence (a piece of mail), I headed up to the school in the pouring rain and found the Strong Start room. The facilitator greeted me with a warm “hello” and welcomed me into the programme space. There were a little over a dozen children there with their parents – mostly mothers, but there was also two men. As outlined on the Strong Start web page, we found a painting and drawing easel, two craft centers, educational toys, fantasy play items such as a large doll house, a sand pit, a building block area, library corner and circle time rug. An hour before the end of the morning session, the children were invited to clean up, wash up and sit down for a healthy snack that was provided by the programme and prepared by one of the mums. This was followed by a circle time featuring dancing, singing and story telling. Before the children left, they were invited to read books with their caregiver.
As this is a parent participation programme, parents help with snack and cleaning up. This is a free programme, however you will have to register your child when you start attending. (Bring a copy of the birth certificate and a document proving your place of residence.) Some programmes run in the mornings and some run in the afternoon. You can choose one in your region that matches your child’s nap pattern. If you can have your child attend a programme in the school he or she will attend later, that is the ideal option.
It should be pointed out that there is an ECE trained facilitator on site; however, the individual parent is expected to stay with his or her child, interact, support and monitor their progress. Additionally, while the programme is for children ages 0 – 5, it is probably more appropriate for a child who can walk. Although there are books, simple toys and a carpeted area that are perfect for the younger baby. The programme space provides the parent of a young child with the opportunity to meet other parents. This is an important opportunity at a time when parents can feel quite isolated in our communities. That said, it is fair to say that there is something for the parent and child of any age between 0 – 5.
If you are a parent of a child who needs opportunities to socialize with other children in a stimulating environment, one of these programmes would be a good option. They appear in local public schools and also take place in rural areas. For a full list of locations, check out the list of Strong Start programmes online. If you’re not sure if the programme is right for you and your child, do check take a look rather than delaying a visit. It would be a shame to miss out on this opportunity if it could work for your child.
Although my children are a few months shy of their second birthday, they are old enough to attend this programme on a regular basis. Many children as old as five years of age are attending programmes three mornings a week. In many households where one parent is not working, a fee-based pre-school is not an option. That said, I hope to be able to bring my children to this programme as much as possible.
The BC Ministry of Education’s policy information about Strong Start BC
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