Three schools offer summer StrongStart programs in Langley

Free drop-in program for ages 0 to five has huge benefits for child and caregiver

Just because school’s out for summer, doesn’t mean little ones can’t get an early start on education.

Langley School District has added StrongStart opportunities at Parkside and Douglas Park Elementary schools this July. Willoughby Elementary will again offer summer StrongStart, bringing the total to three schools offering the free drop-in program.

“It is exciting to expand the program into more schools this year and allow for more participation from Langley families,” said Ken Hoff, Langley School District spokesperson. The program at Douglas Park has matching hours to the school’s regular calendar which will be convenient for parents with a student already in school, he added.

As with all the StrongStart programs, it is free for caregivers to drop in with their birth to five-year-old children. Snacks are provided for children as well as circle time, exercise in the gym and crafts like painting. All that is required is the child’s identification.

StrongStart programs are offered in one of the school’s classrooms.

Kwantlen Polytechnic University nursing students Anita Laurukh and Nadine Elchehimi chose StrongStart programs in Langley as their community project. What they discovered after speaking to numerous parents who attend is that there are multiple benefits to both child and caregiver.

“This is a government-funded program that more people need to know about. StrongStart helps kids with the transition to Kindergarten, offers early education, offers important structure, like clean up time, washing hands before snack time, circle time, resources and support for parents,” said Elchehimi.

But what it also provides is a community for caregivers looking for a place to take young children and a place for moms who are feeling isolated. Both parent and child can socialize.

Moms can meet other moms and they can share the various concerns and stages their children are going through.

“A lot of the time moms say ‘I didn’t feel so alone after talking with other moms and they found out what they are going through is similar to another mom,” said Elchehimi.

“We spoke with one mom who said StrongStart prevented postpartum for her. For grandparents who often take on caregiving during the summer, StrongStart is a place to take the kids that offers activities and enrichment. We also heard a lot from parents that StrongStart lessened their child’s anxiety. Children get a chance to share, interact with other children.”

“It’s such an amazing resource for parents. It’s kind of this hidden gem that not enough parents know about or use. We found that most parents found out about StrongStart through word of mouth,” said Laurukh. “We think it may be a use it or lose it type of resource so we are here to get the word out.”

When they visited the Langley programs, they found that some StrongStart programs were being underutilized. At Willoughby, as many as 45 children could be at StrongStart where at a lesser known program, there are only half a dozen, they said.

Both Douglas Park and James Hill StrongStarts have low attendance in their programs, but Langley school district is trying to change that, said Hoff.

It is accurate that Douglas Park and James Hill StrongStarts are under-utilized and that we would like to see an increase in participation there. As a result, some changes are being added to the program content including Aboriginal content, community partnerships visits from librarians, dental hygienists and volunteers from Langley Environmental Partners for gardening activities,” said Hoff.

These additional resources will be added to all programs.

Summer StongStarts:

Willoughby Elementary: July 5 – 27, 9 a.m.-12 p.m. Douglas Park Community Elementary: July 4 – 13 9 a.m. 12 p.m. Parkside Centennial Elementary: July 11 – 27, 9 a.m.-12 p.m.