Tucked away at the side of St. Peter’s Catholic High School in Orleans is one of our favourite drop-in play groups. Charlemagne Child Care Services houses Charlemagne Nursery School and the Charlemagne Preschool Resource Centre. Located at 750 Charlemagne Blvd, the drop-in play group, which is a satellite Early Years Centre , is open 5 mornings (9 to 11:30 am) and 2 afternoons (Monday & Wednesday, 1 to 3:30 pm) a week. Tuesday and Thursday mornings are reserved for caregivers.
The bright sunny space is one of my favourite places to take the boys. We like it so much that we’ve been regular visitors since 2007, when my oldest was only a year old. The centre is set-up much like a nursery school or kindergarten classroom. There are well-defined activity centres throughout the large room, including an art table, two sensory play areas, a dramatic play centre (kitchen, dolls, dress-up clothes), a play dough table, fine motor activities (puzzles, blocks), an infant area, as well as a small climbing structure and ride-on toys. There’s even a separate room, with a half-door, for children over the age of three. Within the Kinder-room there are more sophisticated arts and crafts supplies, a reading corner, as well as ‘big kid’ toys, like Rescue Heroes and doll houses.
Because we visit the center at least once a week, I really appreciate the variety of toys, arts and crafts, and sensory activities. Each activity area is usually centred around a theme, for example, during the Month of May we made Mother’s Day cards, created tissue paper flowers, and used spring stickers and paint markers to make colourful pictures. The sensory areas are even theme-based: in the fall the kids searched for animals in a big tub of leaves and at Easter they hunted for eggs in Easter basket grass.
The resource centre staff, Sheryl and Catherine, are welcoming and go out of their way to make everyone feel comfortable and part of the group. There’s a good mixture of regular visitors and occasional drop-ins, which makes this play-group a great place to meet moms who have kids of all ages.
Between 9 and 10 each morning the children engage in free play and then join Sheryl for circle and story time. Sheryl has a great repertoire of stories, songs, felt stories, and finger puppets to capture everyone’s attention. Even the busy toddlers who have trouble sitting still (ahem, monkey). Bring a (nut-free) snack to refuel after circle time. While the kids are all eating its a good time to talk to other moms and childcare providers or check-out toys from the toy lending library. There are three large binders to peruse that have toys appropriate for ages 0 to 5. We frequently borrow large ride-on toys, which are a hit with both boys but too big to keep in the house on a regular basis. The centre also has a great resource library with hand-outs on a wide variety of health and parenting topics, books, and videos.
The centre closes for the summer on Friday June 11th and re-opens on September 13th, 2010. Make sure to check-it out before the summer hiatus: I’ll be the one following the almost 2 year old whirling dervish from activity to activity.
Sara is mom to a 4-year-old firefighter and 2-year-old monkey. You can find her at her blog, My Points of View