I have mentioned before that I work with families. There’s no clear cut description of what I do, as I do a little bit of everything. I work in children’s services. I work in Social Services. I am an educator to both parents and kids. I am an advocate to both parents and kids. I support, listen and refer. I play. I get marker, paint, glue and much more all over my hands. Sometimes my shoulder gets spit up on, sometimes it gets cried on. I laugh, and sometimes I cry. I care.
This area where I live has a lot of offer its kids, but there are so many families that don’t take advantage. Working in “the field” I am always made aware of what’s going on all over the county, but having friends all over this county, I know that so many people are not aware at all of what they could be doing with their kids, each and every day.
You say you’re bored, you can’t stand to be cooped up in the house with your kids for one more day…or maybe it’s your KIDS saying that, with their words or with their behaviour. So do some research, find out what’s going on, and get out there! Don’t knock it until you try it.
How do you find out about things going on? Just like everything else, the online information superhighway is a great place to start. Google “children” or “kids” and the name of your town or your county. Type the name of your town or nearest town into Facebook’s search engine.
Every county and major municipality in Ontario has an “Ontario Early Years Centre”. These are perhaps the best known places for children’s services. They are funded by the provincial government to provide quality programs for families with young children. The staff are paid by the town/municipality in which they work. Google “Ontario Early Years Centre – (your town) or (your county) and you’ll find a wide variety of playgroups, workshops and other activities that are specifically for families with kids ages 0-6. The Huron County chapter of Ontario Early Years has sites all over this county – from Exeter to Gorrie and all points in between. There are programs in Goderich, Wingham, Clinton and Exeter every single day, with weekly programs available in the more rural communities. In addition to their daily playgroups, this month the Goderich site, for example, is offering a “1,2,3 Magic” information night for parents interested in learning about this discipline program, as well as their annual “Getting Ready for Kindergarten” information night. Every Spring, each site puts on their “Alphabet Fun” program, which promotes literacy in JK/SK kids, and each fall they run their “Esso Math” Program, which introduces math concepts in a fun way to the same age group. These groups are wildly successful, and yet a huge number of families have no idea they even exist. OEYC also offers a program for coping with toddler behaviours, cooking programs, programs specifically for babies, fun with science programs, French immersion programs…the list goes on and on, and this is all right in your own backyard. There are even evening and Saturday morning programs in some communities. I have been a part of many of their programs with my own kids and have gotten to know a number of the staff, both personally and professionally. Some of them have become good friends of mine. They are good at what they do, they love what they do, and they are here for you and your family.
Did I mention that all of these programs are free?? It doesn’t cost you anything, other than your time. They are in every area of Ontario. Look them up in your community and go out to one of their groups.
Some Ontario Early Years Centres have a Toy Lending library as part of their programming. This is not the case in Huron County . While they do have a parent resource library with a wide variety of books and other resources available to lend, in our area the Toy Library is operated under Rural Response for Healthy Children, a not for profit organization which, at this point, serves only Huron County families. Toy Libraries are great for families for many reasons. It cuts down on cost and clutter if you borrow the toys for a couple weeks, instead of buying them. You can then be sure your child likes an item before you decide to purchase it. You can have big toys at your house for a couple weeks, instead of taking up space for years. And you can keep the kids interested by switching them up every couple weeks. Rural Response provides outreach support services through their travelling toy library to 18 communities throughout Huron County, with playgroups in 6 of those communities. Some of the communities also have playgroups facilitated by OEYC, some do not.
Aside from the travelling toy library service (AKA THE Bus), Rural Response offers a Parent Support and Education Program. The staff in this program work with parents both 1:1 and in group settings, on a variety of issues from budgeting, to discipline, to healthy eating. Some of these families are referred, some refer themselves. Some, after coming to RRHC, need to be further referred and it is the job of the staff to assess each family and decide which county services will best meet their needs. These “services” include anything from daycare subsidies, respite, a consultation with the Children’s Aid Society, referrals to the Huron Perth Centre for Children and Youth (mental health), The Food Bank, Ontario Works, Ontario Housing, etc. There is currently a parent support group in Wingham, as well as one in Brussels, for parents and their children. The parents are in one area, discussing a variety of topics, while the Children’s Program takes place in a different area. The location of these programs in the county are decided based on community needs and requests.
RRHC staff are also trained in a large variety of 6-10 week cumulative “specialty” programs that they can deliver anywhere in the county as well. Beginning in late April, The “Stir it Up with Kids in the Kitchen” program will be offered in Clinton, which is a fun program for preschoolers and their parents, who learn about the 4 food groups, healthy food choices, trying new foods, and cooking and eating foods together. All of these programs are completely free as well.
RRHC’s popular Kinderoo School Readiness Program, runs in various areas of Huron County (5 this year) and is a program for kids who will be entering JK/SK the following September. It runs 3 hours a day, 3 days a week, for 6 weeks in the summer. There is a cost for this one, and subsidies are available.
All of these programs at RRHC are operated by a not for profit organization – they do not receive ongoing consistent funding from any level of government, nor do their paycheques come from the government. The staff aren’t in it for the money, they’re in it because they believe in it, and they love what they do. These programs are all available here in your backyard as well.
There are so many other places to find something to do with your kids. A church is often a great place to look too. Many programs operate each week in church basements – and they don’t always have a religious connotation to them. Coffee time with a children’s program are very popular. The church is Port Albert runs a “Kids Klub” program for school aged kids every Thursday night. It is going so well, that the facilitator was named “Community Champion of the Week” by the local radio station, nominated by a parent whose child attends the program. The cost for this is a simple donation – if you can spare it. No pressure.
A church in Seaforth runs a popular Boys and Girls Club for school aged children in the evenings as well. In both of these cases, you do not need to be a member of that church, or any church, to attend. There are programs like this, at very little cost, taking place in churches all over the area, you just need to call and find out what is offered.
Check your local YMCA/Rec Centre – they are a wealth of information when it comes to children’s programming. Many programs do have fees attached, but all rec centres/YMCAs have subsidy programs as well. Consider purchasing day passes to these centres, if an annual membership is out of the question, or asking for day passes as birthday/Christmas gifts. In Huron and Perth counties, “The Booster Club” is a program offered through the Children’s Aid Society, which helps to cover the costs of enrolling children into organized extra curricular activities who could not otherwise afford it. I cannot emphasize enough here that you DO NOT need to be affiliated with the Children’s Aid Society in order to access the Booster Club.
Visit your local library! You can easily spend an afternoon in the children’s section of the library. I will never forget when I took my then 2 year old daughter to the library for the first time. She LOVES books and her eyes literally lit up when she walked in to the children’s area…I will never forget the excitement on her face as she drank in the rows and rows of books all in one room. My 2 year old son is now the same way. They often have children’s programs at the library as well, especially during the summer months, at no cost.
Talk to Home Daycare providers. They are usually aware of various programs for kids in their communities as they attend them. When you are out running errands, stop for a minute and take a look at all those posters hanging on the bulletin board in the bank, in the mall, in the grocery store. Read your community paper. Some rural communities put out a newsletter with information specific to their area – read it.
Going out to a playgroup, or other activity for families and children is good for the whole family. It gives parents a chance to play with their children without the distraction of laundry, cleaning and phone calls. It gives children undivided attention they so desperately crave. And it gives everyone the opportunity to learn something new; whether it be a new craft idea, a new song, or a new perspective on parenting. Children can socialize with others in a positive, supervised environment, and parents can socialize with other adults while still being with their children.
Talk to people in the know. People that work with kids and with families. Call your Children’s Services Department. Do an internet search. There are more organized activities to do with your kids at very little cost nowadays, than there ever was when I was a child. You just have to go looking for them, they are there. It may involve going out of your comfort zone for a few weeks, but before long, it will be such a part of your routine you’ll wonder what you ever did without it.
If you are interested in learning more about Huron County Ontario Early Years Programs, their main office is just outside Clinton, behind the Huron County Health Unit.
If you are interested in learning more about Rural Response for Healthy Children, the “Stir it Up”, “Kinderoo”, or any of their other programs, their main office is in Clinton was well. Both organization salso have Facebook fan pages, and regular websites
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