SMART: A Program for Kids Under Three
Mothers Matter Centre’s latest newcomer innovation, launching this fall, is SMART: Supporting Mothers and Raising Toddlers. Inspired by a program delivered by IMPULS Germany, the SMART program is designed to provide HIPPY Home Visitors with training, curriculum and materials that will allow them to extend their reach to younger siblings in families presently served by our programs.
The Need for SMART
The HIPPY program serves newcomer, refugee, and Indigenous mothers and their 3-5-year-old children. Families taking part in the HIPPY Program often have younger children who would also benefit from developmentally appropriate programming.
Given the rapid pace of brain development in very young children, it is important to support parents with knowledge and skills so that they can shape learning experiences that will help parent-child bonding. These play-based learning activities and interactions will create a strong foundation for future learning and development. Due to cultural, language and other barriers, many participating families are not yet accessing service such as infant or toddler programs that can help parents learn to maximize child development and learning at this early age.
Mothers Matter Centre identified this gap in in-home programming support, and developed the SMART program in response. The SMART program is designed to support parents of children ages 18-36 months. Like HIPPY, it is delivered through an in-home model.
The SMART program provides isolated mothers of children ages 18-36 months with support from a specially trained peer home visitor and learning materials. By using these materials with their child daily, mothers foster healthy early childhood development.
There are currently 25 play-based activities, six toys and 11 books in the SMART curriculum. The families receive age-appropriate books and toys needed for each activity, such as stacking cups, puzzles, and playdough. The materials are provided free of charge for families to keep.
The toys and activities were selected and designed for the SMART program based on research in the early childhood education field. The SMART curriculum is designed to ensure that essential skills are developed when parents and children complete the play-based activities utilizing toys and books provided as part of the SMART Program.
Furthermore, the SMART program is totally flexible and portable. It is flexible in that it can be used to supplement programming for 3-5 year old family members attending HIPPY and other program innovations delivered by the Mothers Matter Centre. And it is portable as activities can be completed both outside and inside.
Parents are also provided with activity suggestions that encourage learning to extend beyond the SMART program. As a result, families will learn to enjoy learning by playing together.
Mothers Helping Mothers
As with all Mothers Matter Centre programs, the SMART program utilizes our proven mother-to-mother approach. In this approach, women from the community are trained as Home Visitors to deliver the program.
By delivering the programming this way, mothers will build confidence in their own ability to teach their children through daily play with their child using the activities and interactions that are role modeled by the Home Visitor. Regular group meetings will also facilitate the exchange of educational and developmental topics among SMART parents. And through home visits and group meetings, families will become familiar with family resources and make new contacts in their neighbourhood.
The SMART program will be launching in September 2019, with training beginning in August 2019. The first release of the program will include 25 activity cards available in English, French, Arabic, and Farsi.
We are grateful to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada for funding this project and to our friends at First Book Canada, the National Council of Jewish Women, the Whistler Quilters Guild, Ikea Richmond, Lorna Ball, and our donors for their provision of books for the pilot project.