Free Strong Start program for preschoolers expands to West End

Strong Start, a provincially funded, free program for children under six and their parents, is expanding with a new afternoon program in New Westminster's West End. The program is a gentle introduction to school for preschoolers through play-based learning.

Strong Start, a provincially funded, free program for children under six and their parents, is expanding with a new afternoon program in New Westminster’s West End. The program is a gentle introduction to school for preschoolers through play-based learning.

We’ve written about Strong Start here before. The Cole’s Notes version of that post: Strong Start is awesome.

The new Strong Start centre will open March 29 at Connaught Heights Elementary, at 2201 London St. in the city’s West End. Strong Start will share space in the school with New Westminster Parks, Culture & Rec’s long-running Tiny Tots preschool program.

Among the three programs, there should be a time to suit every parent/child schedule. The new program at Connaught will be open 12:30-3:30pm, Monday to Friday. Meanwhile, the program will continue to operate in Sapperton at McBride Elementary every weekday from 9am-12pm, and in Queensborough at Queen Elizabeth Elementary on Monday and Friday from 9am-12pm and Tuesday/Wednesday/Thursday from 4-7pm.

Strong Start follows the regular school schedule, which means it is closed on professional development days and school holidays including spring break (which is this week).

Briana Tomkinson

Briana Tomkinson is a Montreal-based writer and original founder of Tenth to the Fraser. She really likes to write letters by hand.

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6 comments

  1. Ooh that time sucks for us but that's great news! Although really, for those who still nap, is that time good for anyone?

  2. I know, I don’t think the time will work for us either, but for older preschoolers and those who give up naps early, it might be a good option. Good to have choices 🙂

  3. Also good for people with little ones still doing two naps… we always have to leave by 10:30 or so from the McBride SS.

  4. Strong Start sounds amazing! It's the first time I'm hearing about it. But I'm wondering how it stacks up against New West Family Place. NWFP is close to our house while Strong Start would require some driving, but the afternoon times would actually work better for my early napper. I'd love to hear from someone who's been to both. Anyone?

  5. Linda: Strong Start is actually a lot like Family Place. The differences:

    – SS allows unrelated caregivers to bring children. Family Place restricts it to parents, grandparents and other family members.

    – SS has gym time, in which the kids get to run around the gymnasium chasing bouncy balls and hula hoops. FP doesn't have this active component.

    – Based on the time I went to FP, I think SS has better snacks: fresh fruit, crackers and dry cereal with water (not juice).

    – FP cuts off entry after a certain number of kids. SS has never turned people away when I have come. That means it can sometimes get busier than FP. Since I bus, this is a plus for me (I would hate to come and be turned away) but if you or your kid can't stand a crowd some days might be challenging for you.

    – SS also seems to have messier fun: shaving cream on the table, fingerpaints, a flour/sand bin, etc.

    – Both offer coffee & tea for parents

    BUT

    – FP has parent education programs that SS doesn't have

    – FP has an awesome toy lending library

    – At FP you can ask for someone to watch your kid for a minute if you really need a break. At SS this happens much more informally. You are expected to be with or nearby at all times.

    Those are the differences I can think off, of the top of my head. They are both good fun for kids!

  6. Thank you, Briana, for the great comparison of the two! I will definitely check out Strong Start in the future, but since I'm 8 months pregnant now I think chasing after my 18-month-old in a gym would be a bit much. I'll stick to Family Place (where the volunteers really are amazing about helping me out and the space is confined) until I'm more mobile. Thank you!

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