Lethbridge-based Little Bear Dayhome Agency
(LBDA) is currently looking into the possibility of opening a series of government-approved, certified day homes in Crowsnest Pass.
The accredited family childcare agency is contracted by the Government of Alberta to provide childcare services to Lethbridge and the surrounding area, and has a total of 12 day homes currently operating under its umbrella – nine in Lethbridge, one in Picture Butte, one in Magrath and one in Coalhurst.
Owner and Operator Cheralan O’Donnell opened the agency in June 2009, in response to a need for this kind of government-approved, subsidized care.
“I saw a need and wanted to address it, and I wanted something for my own children,” said
O’Donnell, who has a Sociology degree and experience in early childhood intervention, facilitating children’s programs, and teaching parenting skills.
“With my background and skills, it seemed like a good area to work into and provide something I thought was needed.”
She noted that many families cannot afford the full cost of childcare, and day home agencies allow for subsidized care, easing the burden on parents, and that this was another driving factor in creating the agency.
“Our goal has always been to work with the outlying areas and surrounding communities, as there is a lack of knowledgeable and subsidized care options there,” she said.
She said LBDA wants to open a series of such day homes in Crowsnest Pass and meet with individuals interested in running them.
LBDA day home operators, known as “providers”, are encouraged not only to care for the child, but to be actively engaged in addressing the child’s interests and needs.
“The basic function of any agency is to ensure government standards are met and the children are receiving a high quality of care focused on early childhood development and what they are interested in,” said
O’Donnell, noting that the agency focuses on the child’s interests in a play-based approach and plan lessons according to that.
“We want our children to learn through play, and that is the focus of all of our day homes.”
LBDA Program Coordinator, Home Visitor and Early Childhood Education Consultant Alison Sudeyko said providers observe the children’s interactions and speak with the children in their care to determine their interests, planning a play area based on that subject.
There are eight main play areas set up in every LBDA day home: sand, water, blocks, art, music, dramatic play and house, manipulative, and literature, as well as outside play.
If a child has an interest in something such as trains, the provider can choose to focus on teaching the child about the broader topic of transportation, Sudeyko said, and set up a play area which teaches the child about airplanes, cars, buses, and concepts such as gravity and how trains move.
“What we try to do is take that child’s interests and really broaden it so they can learn as much as they can from their particular interest,” she said.
She said providers are encouraged to be at the child’s level, down on the ground playing with them, talking, asking open-ended questions, helping them to solve their own problems and encouraging them to interact with other children.