Note: Although the Mom & Tots group is currently suspended due to public health recommendations we look forward to welcoming our young neighbours back to Canterbury very soon!
A local community playgroup linking generations has landed at Canterbury Foundation, filling the activity room with lots of smiles, chatter and laughter. Since November, the neighbourhood Moms & Tots Group has been meeting on the first Wednesday morning of the month at Canterbury for casual playtime, snacks and social gathering.
Organized by Laurier Heights community league member and Block Connector Donna McLeod-Huynh, it was a creative idea that took flight. “It was brought up at a community board meeting – and since we already have games night here once a month playing board games and cards – it just made perfect sense to bring the youngest neighbours in Laurier Heights to visit with the oldest neighbours.”
The proposal was warmly received by staff and residents of Canterbury, and after an exchange of emails, the details fell into place. Canterbury had some toys on hand, and a local Mom who used to have a day home topped up the supply. “The children come and they do their thing,” laughs Donna who on this morning watches 4 year old son Angus take off with a helicopter.
For Canterbury Court resident Bruce Hogle, it’s time well spent. ”It’s beautiful, it’s just gorgeous, seeing all the little children here. It’s something my wife Gail and I look forward to and I mark it down on our calendar. For a few of the seniors, they might be a little shy at first but once they start coming they are having a great time. To me, it’s like Christmas and Easter and a celebration all wrapped up into one!”
Having a community playgroup on location is not only a good time, but also serves a greater purpose for Canterbury seniors.
“It is important to have intergenerational connections to expose residents to different generations to help increase their quality of life, fight isolation and help pass on words of wisdom that may be lost forever if not given the opportunity,” explains Leana Nielsen, Life Enrichment Lead Coordinator at Canterbury Foundation. She adds, “It encourages residents to come out to experience a new program and build a rapport with someone of a different age range. And it encourages younger people to not see age as a number but to see seniors as the same as anyone else.”
Young mother Ava Totino agrees, “One of my grandmas came to live with us for a time when I was little, and it meant a lot to me. I feel this generation can teach the young kids even more with their stories that are just so different.”
This is her second attendance with baby daughter Maria and toddler son Ben, who loves visiting with their Great Grandpa Bruce. “Ben was really looking forward to the visit today, and for him the atmosphere here is just a little more calm, in a nice way. He’s pretty funny but he seems to know “OK, I have to act a bit differently here” than he does at Tot Time at the hall, so it’s a great social learning process for him too.”
Some seniors sit quietly and enjoy the activity, or chat with Moms and caregivers, while others like Great Grandpa Bruce just dive right in. “I like to get down on the ground with them. I like to do whatever they want to do. We pick up a toy and if this doesn’t work out, we’ll try this one or another one.”
And you never know what other kinds of fun will pop up at the playgroup. Bruce once gave curious tots a tour of the building and at one recent meeting a senior resident grabbed a fiddle from his room for an impromptu concert where the little children danced, giggled and had fun.
“Laughter and play like this is so important,” says Leana, “It lifts the spirit. It helps with depression, anxiety and building confidence. Laughter is the best medicine because it has no boundaries and it is experienced by all. It also allows our residents to live in the moment and remember what it is like to be young.”
For Donna’s young son Angus, Canterbury has found a special place in his heart. “I was walking down the street and asked him if he wanted his birthday party at the zoo, café, or trampoline park, and he said, “No, no I want to go to Canterbury again and visit with the old folks” and I laughed and then I thought, that’s a brilliant idea. We should do that. We can bring cake and play games. It’s another opportunity to visit with neighbours and give them a chance to get out and about.”
Donna has gotten to know a lot of the seniors that come regularly to the Moms & Tots Group, that sees anywhere from three to ten families drop in for play each month. As a teacher and parent, she values the life lessons the children are taking away from the experience. “I hope that Angus learns that his neighbours matter, that he has a role to play in building connections with them no matter what age they are.” She adds, “I’m passionate about community, about block connecting, and learning from each other. The more we build relationships with all our neighbours, the more abundant our neighbourhood becomes.”
Canterbury residents also cherish their own valuable contributions that make their spirits soar. “It’s wonderful to see people like this mixing. It’s a history lesson for both adults and the children,” says Bruce. “I love spending time with my great grandchildren here, but you know as far as I’m concerned I get to be the missing grandpa to those who don’t have one too, and that makes me feel great.”
Moms & Tots Play Group at Canterbury Foundation
When: The First Wednesday of the Month
Time: 9:30 – 11:30 AM
What: Playtime, visiting, snacks and laughs
Laurier Heights Families and neighbours are welcome to come and spend quality time with Canterbury Residents!