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Ang Malcolm brings the West Central Play-Mobile to Communities

If you haven’t logged onto Facebook to take part in one of their amazing giveaways, many of you will have seen or heard about the West Central Play-Mobile, which has been in operation for nearly six years.

As part of her role as Regional KidsFirst Community Developer Ang Malcolm has managed the West Central Play-Mobile organization and Facebook group since its inception.

Malcolm was a part of an Intersectoral Committee which included representation from Saskatchewan Health Authority (Heartland Health Region at the time), Sun West School Division and the Ministry of Social Services when the idea for the Play-Mobile was first dreamed up. “We liked the idea of having Family Resource Centres throughout the region as an information hub to connect families to existing resources in their area that also had an early learning focus. We quickly realized that having an actual physical location, staff, board members for numerous areas was not sustainable.”

As the ideas were rolling, the committee decided that since Malcolm covered the whole West Central area (same boundaries are former Heartland Health Region) why not set up a travelling family resource centre–a mobile family centre on wheels. “We had the idea that we would fill an SUV full of resources and travel to communities willing to host us.”

The committee’s idea took off and communities have been welcoming the Play-Mobile with welcome arms since. “Once we arrive somewhere, we set up a “Pop-Up Playgroup” for families to attend. The focus is to promote the importance of play and family engagement. At sessions, we bring a theme (such as Down on the Farm, At the Zoo, Music & Nursery Rhymes, Outer Space, Family & Home, Occupations, Critters & Creatures, etc.). At each session, there are various stations set up that focus on and support different early childhood development domains (including gross motor/physical activity; fine motor activities that promote hand-eye coordination; language and literacy; social and cognitive development, etc.),” says Malcolm. In addition to these stations, the Play-Mobile always features a craft station, a reading corner, puzzles, imaginative play, games and more! There is also the opportunity for families to socialize and connect with other families, and a tote full of parenting resources to browse through as well.

“The sessions have been well received and really gained in popularity over the years,” says Malcolm. “We haven’t been able to do in-person sessions since March 2020 but hope to return to scheduling sessions as soon as the Public Health measures allow it.”

Originally the Play-Mobile Facebook group was started to advertise when the Play-Mobile would be visiting different communities while also highlighting some of the fun families were having.

However, since Covid-19 restrictions came into place, Malcolm has been using Facebook differently, but this has been to her advantage, by growing the Play-Mobile’s reach and popularity. “I’ve had to change my work plan dramatically and have used social media as a way to reach families instead. The group has grown by around 1300 members since March 2020 and currently has just over 1600 members,” she shared.

The Regional KidsFirst program received a literacy grant last year which was extremely beneficial to help Malcolm further the Play-Mobile’s reach. “I have been working to deliver numerous “giveaway” opportunities for families that promote family literacy and family bonding. The current giveaway is full of cool sensory items including the trending Pop Its, calming glitter jars, and more! The group is quite interactive. I post all of the current projects as well as some parent information and family activity posts a couple of times per week.”

Another initiative that has been immensely popular are craft kits and activity kits. Malcolm shared that she has done interactive calendar kits that have themed activities and crafts supplies to complete all through the year; Christmas and Easter craft kits; and summer road trip boredom buster bags that have been distributed region-wide. “These kits are usually quite time-consuming to put together (especially when you are making 500 or more!) but I am fortunate enough to have my two daughters who are a tremendous help when needed,” laughed Malcolm.

With restrictions due to lift in July, Malcolm is looking forward to getting the Play-Mobile physically back into communities. “My favourite part of running the Play-Mobile is interacting with and getting to know families across the region. I am looking forward to being back out in communities regularly in the future but still hope to be able to provide take-home activities and packages for families as well! I also very much enjoy trying to get creative with new ideas and themes and see them successfully come together! I am always thinking of ways I can turn something into a new project!”

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