By NAFISAT ALAO
The Beaches Co-operative Playschool, a non-profit community-focused preschool for children, is celebrating 50 years of providing child care for the Beach and East York communities.
Although the school is celebrating its 50th anniversary, last year was almost its last. Impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic on enrollment took a toll, and there was also a need for new community members to step forward and help run the co-operative playschool which is volunteer-run and made up of a parent-family executive board consisting of the families that have children at the school.
Beach resident Caitlin Moniz, a mother of two and current acting president for the playschool, first learned about the school when she enrolled her three-year-old son.
“I got into it because my son is a student at the school… a new set of executive members needed to step forward but there was a lack of interest for various reasons because it’s a full-time job, unpaid. Myself and a few other families decided to step forward and keep the school open and take on executive positions and we’re happy to see the school continue to go on,” she said.
The school caters to children as young as 15 months old and for many children of those ages comes the fear of separation from their parents. Moniz discussed how the playschool aids in these situations.
“We offer family led separation, the caregiver that drops off their child at our centre is encouraged to stay for attendance, circle time and morning message. If the child is having a hard time, we allow the family to stay for as long as they feel comfortable in the environment with their child,” she said.
In terms of ensuring their school is a safe and nurturing environment for the children, Moniz said that it has all been due to the hard work of the staff.
“It’s really our staff, they are amazing. We have a great team and they just offer such an amazing program and most of them are mothers themselves and they’re warm, inviting, compassionate and all around amazing people,” she said.
The playschool follows the Early Years program created by the Ontario Ministry of Education and follows the same curriculum as early child care centers and kindergartens.
The playschool is driven by inquiry-based learning that is child-led and allows the children to learn based on their own interests and developmentally appropriate needs which is also able to foster their social skills. The playschool also makes sure to have activities that cater to children of all learning styles and abilities by providing varying levels of inclusive activities depending on the child’s needs.
“It’s all based on the direction in which the children take the play. Our centre takes shape based off of those interests and it’s all tied towards a bigger theme, depending on what it is the children are interested in at that moment in time and it constantly changes,” said Moniz.
Several parents of children enrolled in the playschool have expressed their appreciation for the way the school teaches kids through play, and allows them to be involved with their child’s process.
“A lot of the parents work from home and although it’s not full-time care, it provides the opportunity for caregivers to drop their children off at our centre, giving them a break,” said Moniz.
She also mentioned that she hopes more families will volunteer and get involved to help run the school and carry on the tradition for future years to come because “the success of the school is really dependant upon the families involvement”.
The playschool is located at 975 Kingston Rd. at the back of Kingston Road United Church.
For more information on the Beaches Co-Operative Playschool and its programs, please visit https://www.beachescoopplayschool.ca/