All of my weekly posts thus far have focused on free (or very cheap) events for kids under 5. Although there are still great programs running for little ones (see the Weekly Programs and the Calendar), this week I’ll highlight events that support us as parents. Because being a parent is a pretty intense job and there’s no instruction manual to tell you what to do upon delivery.
Parent/Infant Drop-In Groups (available for Cruisers and Toddlers too!)
When and Where: Organized by Vancouver Coastal Health, there are a number of local health centres with drop-in groups run by nurses and health care practitioners. Each offers groups at different locations and on different days. Click on the links below to find a schedule for the health centre nearest you. (Note: there are often several locations available within the realm of each centre).
- Evergreen Community Health Centre, 3425 Crowley Drive
- Groups for: Infants 0 – 12 months
- South Community Health Centre, 6405 Knight Street
- Groups for: Infants 0 – 12 months (also available in Cantonese and South Asian Languages)
- Three Bridges Community Health Centre, 1292 Hornby Street
- Groups for: Infants 0 – 12 months
- Robert and Lily Lee Family Community Health Centre, 1669 E Broadway
- Groups for: Infants 0 – 6 months, Cruisers 6 – 14 months, and Toddlers 14 months +
- Pacific Spirit Community Health Centre, 2110 West 43rd Avenue
- Groups for: Infants 0 – 8 months
- RavenSong Community Health Centre, 2450 Ontario Street
- Groups for: Infants 0 – 12 months and Toddlers 10 months – 3 years
What: These groups are a great way to meet other parents with kids of a similar age and to get your questions answered by a local nurse or health care professional, such as a nutritionist. The topics include everything from the health of your child (safety, immunizations, dental health etc.) to managing behaviour (education, play, sleep, etc.), and some topics on how to cope with parenting’s challenges. All the sessions are free and you can drop-in anytime. It’s best to join a group that focuses on the age range for your child, if possible, since the topics will be more relevant to you.
I have been attending the Toddler Group on Thursdays at 10:30am at the Lee Family Clinic at Commerical and Broadway. The nurse who facilitates the program, Anne, is, in a word, wonderful. We begin the meeting by mingling with the other parents and allowing the kids to play with a variety of toys together. The kids get a small snack of fruit, then Anne captures everyone’s attention with a song and parents gather together in a circle while the kids play either at our feet or under the watchful eye of two volunteers who oversee a play area near the back of the room. Anne introduces a topic for discussion (all highly relevant, the last two have been “diffusing toddler tantrums” and “getting time to yourself as a busy parent”) and after a bit of information, we discuss the topic as a group. To end the meeting, parents and kids join in for a short story and song time with Anne before departing. After each session, I’ve left reassured that although I’m not sure I’m doing things “right”, no one else is either. There’s a nice sense of community among the parents and Monita sure likes playing with new toys alongside the other kids.
La Leche League: Support for Breastfeeding Moms
Where: Lee Family Community Health Centre (second floor Community room), 1669 E Broadway (Commercial Dr. and Broadway, map)
What: Founded more than 50 years ago, the La Leche League‘s mission is to “encourage, promote and provide mother-to-mother breastfeeding support and educational opportunities as an important contribution to the health of children, families and society”. During the informal monthly meetings, Moms and Moms-to-be have a chance to ask questions about breastfeeding and parenting issues and connect with other Moms. The babies/tots play with toys or on a mat in the centre of the room, while Moms sit in a circle around them to discuss breastfeeding and parenting in general. Two trained leaders are present at each meeting to provide information about breastfeeding issues and support the mothers in the group. There is usually a topic or theme for the meeting, but the main focus remains on dealing with whatever questions the Moms at the meetings would like to discuss. The meetings are free, but you can also become a member of La Leche League Canada to receive online publications and attend members-only meetings and events.
I used the La Leche League book “The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding” extensively for information during the first 6 months of Monita’s life, particularly considering that I was pretty isolated as a Canadian (with limited Spanish) living abroad in Colombia at the time. I would have loved to be able to talk to other Moms about how to fix some of the breastfeeding problems I had (mastitis, ouch!) and get a little mental support. It was only once Monita was about 10 months and we were back in Canada that I had the opportunity to attend a meeting, and although we’re breastfeeding smoothly now, I’m happy to have the help if I need it. The topic this week is Nutrition and Weaning, but I’ll mostly be asking about whether Monita really needs to breastfeed five times a night at this age…
Note: There are many LLL groups across the country and in the Lower Mainland. Check out their list of groups in BC. In addition to the meeting at Commercial/Broadway, I have also attended the Main St. LLL group at the Ravensong Community Health Centre (2450 Ontario St). They meet on the 3rd Monday of the month from 10am – 12 Noon.
Free Lecture: Leading to Learning
When: Tuesday, January 29, 6:00 – 8:00 pm
Where: The Old Barn Community Centre, 6308 Thunderbird Boulevard (UBC Campus) (map)
What: Dr. Particia Porter, founder of Leading to Learning, will be offering an interactive presentation about how to support your child’s education. Her book, which has the subtitle “A Parent’s Guide to Teaching your Child How to Learn”, focuses on school age children, but the message that she sends would be equally valid for setting the stage for learning in kids under 5. Although I’m not the kind of Mom who buys into the programs that claim to make your child a super-genius with the purchase of “product X”, there’s no harm in attending a free lecture to get a few tips. Community centre membership is required for $5. Please pre-register for the event by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org or 604-736-3588 ext. 28
Montessori Preschool Open House
Where: Family Montessori School, 4196 W 4th Ave (map)
What: If you have a child aged 3 – 4 years old and are considering a Montessori preschool, you can find out more about the Montessori style of teaching and whether it’s for you at the Family Montessori School. You are encouraged to bring your kids to the Open House as well. While parents meet with teachers, the kids will be involved in an activity and have a light healthy snack. If you live in North Van, you might have attended the Early Years Fair last week and been boggled by the choices before you. Relax, even if you do decide to put your kids in preschool, chances are that if you’re reading this, it doesn’t really matter what school they go to. Check out a great article about whether you need preschool at all.
Free Lecture: Nurturing Financially Competent Kids
Where: Dunbar Community Centre, 4747 Dunbar St. (map)
What: If you’re the kind of thrifty parent who frequents Vancouver Under 5 to find fun, cheap ways to entertain your kids, maybe you’ve got it figured out already. Then again, you might be teaching your kids bad money habits without realizing it with random impulse buys… say sushi lunches out? (Guilty as charged.) While I’ve been working hard at budgeting this year, it’s not an easy thing to teach in such a commercially driven environment. Jim Doyle, Senior Financial Consultant with Investors Group Financial Services Inc., has some tips for raising financially savvy kids and will be sharing his ideas in a free, 45-minute presentation. Call 604-222-6060 to register.