Sunday, January 13, 2013

Strong Start

the kid before school

Just this last week, Max dropped his morning nap- or rather, it took more than an hour for him to go to sleep despite our usual morning routine so i considered the nap as done and over with (otherwise it would've overlapped on breakfast time and then lunch time, and just messed up the whole flow of the day). I would've been patient and waited longer, but the weather was just WAY TOO GOOD to sit at home and wait for him to tire out (if even this would happen at a time not so close to his usual second nap), so i fed him and picked up our gear and went to VSB's Strong Start at our local elementary school.

"This program is offered to parents and caregivers with children ages zero – five years. There is no cost to families but the parent/caregiver is required to remain with their child and participate in the program. It is not necessary to have English as a first language to attend the drop in programs.
StrongStart Centres offer preschool aged children, quality early learning experiences. These centres offer play based early learning opportunities and demonstrate to parents and caregivers how they can enhance their child’s development. The emphasis of the program is on learning through play, language and positive social interactions."

I'm not sure if it's glue, old carpets, paper, or just kids in general but something about the aroma of elementary school hallways makes me feel nervous but also giddy. It's like i almost wish i could go back in time, but yeah if i think harder, no not really! Anyhow, Strong Start is held in a full spare classroom. Toys, books, art supplies, pictures on the wall, ceiling, floor, the entire room is very over stimulating! There is a program teacher who basically oversees the scheduling of the day, but also stands back and observes kids playing and parents interacting with their children. Maybe it was because it was our first week there, but the 'teacher' was very welcoming and keen on showing us all the activities we can do (lots to do) as well as giving us many praises for Max's behavior. 

For the first couple of hours, it's FREE PLAY time. Basically kids are near lawless and play with everything they see. It's a great place for kids who may not have a lot of toys at home to come and experience play things with play value. For those that want to bring toys home, they also have a program where you can borrow 2 toys each week for only $5 a year! Great idea to test out whether your kid likes the toy or not before you make a purchase (but probably when you end up purchasing it, they're sick of the toy already!) Max was thriving in this environment, he was shrieking in his own throaty way for the entire time as he zigzagged all around the room. Seriously, he's been a hoot to watch and his sounds of glee are hard to ignore. Many moms came up to us to point out how much fun he was having and laugh with me as we watched Max! After this 2 hour play time, the teacher gives a 5 minute warning to everyone that it's clean up time, and that 'Circle Time' is about to start. Toys are put back into place and everyone gathers in an area where they get read a story and sing interactive songs. Really very nice, and so cute when the kids memorize the songs and sing along (even the caregivers)!

About half an hour or so before the 'school' ends, there is then Snack Time where kids gather around a table and are served crackers, oranges, bananas, apples, and cheese. Parents are helping out in the background cutting up food, preparing paper towels, wiping tables, ensuring each child has enough food. Seriously, no one needs to speak much English but all the mother bears (and some pappa bears) are taking care of the little brood. Really heartwarming! OMG Max looked so adorable sitting in the big lunch table eating his little food as he watched other kids eat. when did he get so big?

(Yes, there are some negative things I can point out like: bullies, cesspool, kids like Max eating toys that can/cant be washed, people dont take off their shoes so if you have a crawler who puts their hand in their mouth a lot then EW. Let's NOT focus on this though!)

Overall, it's a great place for kids to burn a lot of energy, socialize, and of course to learn. Great for parents to interact and get some support from one another (especially new immigrant parents), and great for the budget as it's all free and you don't have to buy all these toys for your 700sq ft apartment because they can play with it in the classroom! Once im back at work, Gene will be taking Max to his little class and well, is it unrealistic to ask him to videotape the entire 2 hours? 

He's so exhausted after going to a morning class and half an afternoon class that he literally lies down on the ground ready to pass out! 



  1. That's awesome you had such a great experience at Strong Start!! You may also want to consider free/drop-in storytimes at your local public library. They are geared towards a specific age, so Max would fig right in! VPL also offers Man in the Moon programs, specifically designed for Daddy and Baby :)

  2. thanks for the tips! my husband needs all the support he can get

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