Giving children the best start

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Supporting Island Families -

In five decades as an early childhood educator, Alice Taylor has learned that helping a family helps a child.

Taylor runs a local version of a Canada-wide program called Handle with Care, which promotes the mental health of young children. She was pleased  when the federal, provincial and territorial governments announced a partnership to make high-quality early learning and child care more accessible to Canadian families.

“Good early childhood education programs help the big picture, the economy, but it can also make such a big difference in everyday lives,” she said.

“There is deep value when a child has the opportunity to grow socially and emotionally in the early years; it has a powerful effect on one's entire life.”

The governments of Canada and Prince Edward Island led the development of the new agreement, which will be supported by $7.5 billion in funding over 11 years. It will result in a framework to create and support more high quality, affordable child care focused on 0 to 4-year-olds across the country.

“We will save money in the long run if we invest in their future early,” Taylor said.

There are four building blocks in the Handle with Care program with 10 activities in each:

  1. building trust and attachment;
  2. building and enhancing self esteem;
  3. expressing emotions; and
  4. relationships with others.

One of the activities invites parents and caregivers to write a postcard to their child to say why they are loved. Taylor recalls one occasion of four year-old twins who treasured the postcards, which came in the mail, so much that they carried them everywhere and slept with the love notes under their pillows.

“It’s about noticing small, everyday things that can oftentimes get lost in normal, everyday, topsy-turvy home life,” she said. “Everybody I have ever known who is a parent wants to be a good parent; the aim is to build love and respect and caring in families.”

As more is learned about brain development, Taylor said it becomes more important to have quality early childhood education programs that help youngsters develop socially, emotionally, and cognitively.

“It’s difficult, without a good start, to maneuver life’s ups and downs. We have an obligation and a responsibility to give kids a really good start.”

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