Little Paws opens new daycare

Safety scissors in hand, a group of preschoolers took a short break from their playing to take part in the official ribbon cutting for the Little…

Safety scissors in hand, a group of preschoolers took a short break from their playing to take part in the official ribbon cutting for the Little Paws Learning Centre’s new building, on Thursday evening.

After the short ceremony, the children ran back into their new daycare for some snacks and music.

For many parents it was a relief to finally be out of the daycare’s old building and into a new one.

“It’s been a long time coming,” one woman said to her friend as the ribbon was cut.

“We stayed in the old building a lot longer than we should have,” said Andrew Robulack, the president of the non-profit organization that runs the daycare.

“It was basically condemned.”

Little Paws Learning Centre moved into its old building at 484 Range Road in 1992 on what was supposed to be only a four-month lease.

Last summer, Yukon Health and Social Services provided $50,000 to pay for the security deposit on a new building next door to the old one.

Local architects Kobayashi and Zedda built the new daycare.

The building’s exterior bears the architects’ characteristic look with corrugated steel siding.

But there is nothing common about the building’s interior.

Everything has been built with the daycare’s little clients in mind.

In the bathroom, all the toilets, urinals and sinks are small enough for toddlers to reach.

The building’s heating runs along the ceiling rather than at the floorboards so that no one gets burned.

Window ledges are lowered so that the children can see out and have more light.

There are special ventilation systems to give the children fresh air.

And special electrical outlets prevent little fingers from getting shocked.

Little Paws cares for infants, toddlers, preschoolers and kindergarteners.

At capacity, the new two-storey building will care for 70 children, even though it is licensed for more, said Robulack.

“The (Executive Director) doesn’t want to crowd the kids.”

But to reach that number, the daycare will have to hire more childcare professionals.

The facility currently has 54 children and 64 will be the maximum until new staff are hired.

“We’ve been really lucky and recently hired a couple new teachers who are levels 2 and 3,” said Robulack.

“We hope to attract more and I think that the new building will help.”

The new executive director Diane Grey has years of experience doing social work in Alberta and has some very progressive ideas about child care.

“This is not a glorified babysit,” said Grey.

“Children come here to develop and learn.”

The centre has a sensory room, filled with different things for kids to interact with and touch, where kids can unwind when they get worked up or stressed.

“It’s a place where kids can go to centre themselves and learn coping skills,” said Grey.

“These skills are especially important for children with (Attention Deficit Disorder) and (Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder).”

The school will also provide “language nests” where an instructor will speak French, Spanish, Mandarin or even sign language to the children as they play.

The school also plans to team up with a local grandmothers’ association and will take care of their grandchildren in exchange for having the grandmothers spend time with the kids.

“We want to involve the community,” said Robulack.

“We’re one of two centres in the Takhini area so we need to really connect to the community.”

The school cares for many First Nation children.

It plans to ask local elders to come to the centre to teach First Nation beliefs and tell stories.

With the opening of the new building, Little Paws has attracted over a dozen new signups.

The centre cost about $500,000 and will be paid for mostly by revenue from the daycare’s regular operations.

As a result, prices will have to be increased by $50 a month.

Preschooler care now costs $690 a month and infant spaces are $750 a month.

“It’s not just a new building, it’s a new era,” said Grey.

“We’re teaching empathy, compassion and other life skills.

“We’ll also be teaching them a love of music,” she added, motioning toward the man and woman playing music for the children.

As the children sang, jumped and danced around to the music, it looked like this was a lesson the children would have an easy time learning.