Every Thursday, dozens of young children come out to the Cariboo Chilcotin Partners for Literacy’s (CCPL) Summer Park program in Centennial Park.
Running from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. every Thursday, the free program is open to anyone with children under the age of seven. It’s being run by family literacy coordinators Elke Baechmann and Jennifer Jones.
Baechmann, SD27’s StrongStart coordinator, said there is always a high need for fun programming for children to engage in over the summer holidays. So far, they’ve had an average of 30 kids show up to the park every time they run a session.
“Most of the programs are shut down and taking a break, so we just wanted to bring something back to the community over the summer,” Baechmann said. “So the CCPL had some funding and we created eight weeks of programming for July and August.”
Last Thursday, Ashley Caines brought her children down to the park. While her family lives in Edmonton now, Caines said they got their start in 100 Mile House, and she enjoys going to programs like this when she visits their old hometown.
“They do this amazing program and they don’t have anything like this back in Edmonton where we are. We always come back to participate in it because the kids love it and we love it,” Caines said. “I feel like after COVID (100 Mile House) has expanded a lot more and there are a lot more young families who have moved to this community over the last few years. It’s great to get them all together to bond and make friendships.”
Caines remarked she made many important friendships at SD27’s StrongStart program as a young mom, and encourages other local moms to attend similar programs and do the same.
“It made all the difference for me. Lots of people are moving here and their families don’t live here, so making that support system is really important,” Caines said.
Each week of the program has a different theme, Baechmann explained. The first theme in July was pond life, followed by a scavenger hunt and Indigenous stories on July 27. Baechmann said this pattern will repeat in August.
In addition to themed crafts, Baechmann said they’ll be setting up gross motor skill activities for children to try. This includes a sensory table with water and sand for children to play in. In the middle of each session they have circle time, where parents and children gather to listen to Baechmann or Jones read books based on that week’s theme.
“It’s very important for us and the CCPL to promote literacy early,” Baechmann said. “We do circle time songs, and books and games. We have also set up hop-scotch with letters of the alphabet, and always have a table with activities that are literacy-related to encourage families with younger kids to speak and ask questions.”
Linda Sainchuk, who has worked as a professional nanny for the last decade, brought her charge Harper Pettit to the park last week. Sainchuk said she found out about the event through word of mouth and thought it’d be a great way to keep Harper amused for a morning. She remarked that she loved watching her interact with the other children.
“I think children are just really good at being themselves. I really enjoy seeing their personalities and seeing them learn. They have a wonder in the world that as adults we don’t still have,” Sainchuk said.
Sainchuk said there are lots of skills and knowledge for children to discover through the CCPL’s program. She thinks it’s a great thing for the community and plans to return later on this summer.
Baechmann observed that every time they’ve run the program new parents and children have come. She said it shows the positive word of mouth they’re generating.
“I’m very happy to have them all here. It’s an awesome place to be to have the kids connect again and socialize, make new friends and be out in nature and try different things,” she said.