“When my children were infants,” says Ainsley Bartram of Kentville, “I found getting out of the house and attending programs [in the community] helped connect me with other parents experiencing similar daily challenges that is life with children.”
In the Annapolis Valley we are fortunate to have so many programs being offered to families for free. For example, the Annapolis Valley Regional Library offers a wide range of programs at all its branches.
“We plan our programs to work for different age groups with child development in mind,” says library community engagement coordinator Angela Reynolds.
All story time presenters have been trained in early literacy concepts and use songs, rhymes and stories to help children learn.
“It feels like it is just fun, but there's learning going on, too,” says Reynolds.
Library programs begin with Babies and Books and continue on to programs such as Rhyme Time and story time sessions. For elementary school students, there are science and technology programs, with a great one coming up on using 3-Doodlers (a pen that draws in 3-D). Teens have special council meetings or hangout sessions. There is literally something for everyone.
To find out more about these programs, visit valleylibrary.ca. Events are also cross-listed on ValleyFamilyFun.ca and ValleyEvents.ca. There’s no excuse to miss out!
There are several family resource centres in the Valley whose mandate it is to strengthen the lives of families and inspire growth by providing quality programs. These include the Kings County Family Resource Centre in Kentville (KCFRC), the Family Resource Centre of West Hants in Windsor, the Greenwood Military Family Resource Centre (GMFRC) and Family Matters in Lawrencetown.
Programs at the family resource centres are all offered for free and to all families no matter their financial or family situation (parents, grandparents, caregivers, guardians). Everyone is welcome, says Kings County Family Resource Centre executive director Melissa Connell.
Funded through the Department of Community Services and grants, the KCFRC offers programs most days of the week that would fit any family’s needs. These programs include play groups, rhyme times, tumblebugs, parent time and much more.
“All of our programs are drop in and come when you can,” says Connell.
The only exception is the preschool program as they can only take so many children in that time slot.
Bartram knows firsthand the value of these programs.
“I remember being shocked (and excited) when I discovered the KCFRC offered a free preschool program,” says Bartram. “For two mornings every week, my four-year-old could attend pre-school, my toddler could spend time doing crafts and playing in the nursery and I could attend a parent group, all for free.” She signed up right away.
Although its programs are designed to enhance the military lifestyle, GMFRC opens its programs to the greater community because it believes it is important military families feel part of their "adoptive" community during their time here, says Pascale Robichaud, community engagement coordinator at the Centre.
Greenwood has several free programs for families including parent and tot times, tumble tots and a baby group. All information can be found on familyforce.ca.
There are so many great programs in the Valley for free, so take advantage of them. The benefits are numerous for both parents and children.“Through the programs I gained friendship, a sense of community, belonging and support,” says Bartram.
The parent group in particular is an amazing program, she says, as it encouraged her to really examine the way she and her spouse parent and it identified strategies to help them improve.
“The group of people I spent the year with was incredible. There was a lot of laughter, joking and sadly, sorrow and tears, but we were all there for each other and I am so thankful for the opportunity to be part of the KCFRC family,” says Bartram.
When you attend a family program, go with an open mind to explore and learn with your children. You’ll be glad you did.
“My kids are excited about the community programs we participate in,” says Bartram “and I think the qualities they gain are invaluable.”
Laura Churchill Duke (www.valleyfamilyfun.ca) has taken her sons to so many of the free library programs and playgroups in the Valley so while her sons burn off some energy and learn to socialize, she connects with other parents.