Okanagan Boys & Girls Clubs – Vernon "Relax and Recharge" program
We spoke with Pam Wiebe who coordinates the “Recharge and Reconnect” program at the Okanagan Boys and Girls Club in Armstrong on Fridays from 9:30 – 11:30 am for parents and caregivers of children birth-5 years old.
The program serves as an information hub, offering support to families and connecting them with community events and activities. The Recharge and Reconnect program fills a gap after traditional gathering places such as faith-based volunteer-run weekday family drop-ins have closed their doors due to operational challenges.
The program offers parents a welcoming environment, a comfortable, safe place to wind down at the end of each week and enjoy a coffee or tea and relax with their children.
Two circular tables are set up with puzzles, crafts and table activities for parents and children to share. For Fathers Day, parents and kids had fun making decorated hand shapes that sprang open as personalized gifts.
Craft time is a new experience for some of the program’s children and parents. Parents are encouraged to use the space and activities to “slow down, take time and enjoy your children”. Parents are encouraged to accept imperfection in their children’s finished crafts and focus on letting their children enjoy the process.
The program includes 20 minutes of healthy snack time. For some of the parents who are experiencing food insecurity, this may be the first meal of their day. Since last year, the program has been a test site for the Farmers Market Coupon Program (see May 2014 Keeping in Touch), connecting low-income families to fresh, local produce with $15 worth of weekly coupons during the Market season. The program incorporates discussion that encourages families to introduce a wider range of vegetables (especially unfamiliar ones) into family meals. The program also partners with and refers families to community kitchens.
Following snack time, there is free play for the children and conversation for the parents, with occasional guest speakers on parenting topics. After free play, there is a shared activity, with a mini-Mother Goose 20-minute circle time of songs and stories (Pam has run the Mother Goose program for 10 years).
Finally, as part of the familiar routine repeated each week, the parents and children move outside to play with bubbles and sidewalk chalk before going home.
Occasional outings to local attractions include the Okanagan Boys & Girls Clubs Camp ArrowFlight and Farmer Val’s, where the children collect multi-coloured eggs from chickens, learn to churn butter to include in their snacks and feed the farm animals, including pot-bellied pigs!
The program’s Facebook page keeps parents updated and provides links to parenting skills programming, information and videos.
During the summer, the program moves outdoors to Memorial Park in the town centre, where trees shelter everyone from the sun and families can play in the splash park and swimming pool. The outdoor summer programming offers a number of benefits:
- Lots of room to play and move.
- The ability to accommodate larger numbers and incorporate grandparents and school-aged siblings along with the parents/caregivers and their infants and toddlers.
- Natural points of contact with other families who are not familiar with the program.
Lots of opportunities for outdoor fun together!