SHELBURNE, N.S. – It’s been 40 years since The Little People’s Place daycare center in Shelburne first opened its doors in the basement of the Saint Thomas Catholic Church.
The non-profit organization had two staff and 15 children to care for in those days. Now 12 staff care for 65 children on a daily basis ranging from 18 months to school age at two locations in the town – the King Street Family Centre where they offer pre-school and a school age programming and at the daycare center on St. Andrew’s Street for children from 18 months to three-and-a-half years.
“We’ve had great community support,” says Susan Elliott, executive director. “The town provides us with both locations so we’re very thankful to them for their support. We’ve been very fortunate. We always manage to keep the center full.”
She noted over the last 20 years the children of the children who first attended Littles People’s Place have been coming to the center, which speaks to the values the community places on the facility.
“Obviously those young people had a good experience here,” she says, adding quality child care “is a big piece of economic development.”
“Young families need to know there is child care available to them, so they can go to work or school. Our fees are among the lowest in the province and that is part and partial because of the town’s support.”
Since moving the daycare center to St. Andrews Street in 1985, Little People’s Place has been expanded and renovated over the years.
“We’re doing more to make the center work better for younger children,” says Elliott.
“That seems to be the trend that we have to look at. Toddlers, maybe even infant care. We’ve never done that before but that’s another thing to look at.” she says, especially if the town goes ahead with a proposal to replace the King Street Family Centre.
“We would be moving into a center designed for child care so infant care would be easy to do,” Elliott says.
With the start of pre-primary programming in the province – this is Year 2 of the rollout – Elliott says Little People’s Place has seen a change in enrollment.
“We’re not getting as many four year olds as we use to. We’re trying to roll with that and figure out a new way to exist. It’s been a bit of a challenge for sure.”
Elliott says Little People’s Place works on an emergent curriculum – what the children are interested in and try and follow their lead.
“It’s less teacher directed and more child directed activities,” she says. “We try to keep everyone busy and look at all developmental needs. Emotional, social, intellectual are all of equal importance. It’s about learning how to get along in the world.
“It’s about learning to take care of yourself, control emotions and being self-regulated so by the time the children go to school they have learned a lot of these skills,” she adds. “We’ve always been a full inclusive center. We have children with special needs in all of our programs and extra staff that help those children integrate into the programs so that’s something we’re really proud of.”
To mark the 40th anniversary of Little People’s Place, there will be several special events happening this fall, including a children’s art gallery installation at Enterprise Square, and a special gathering of all the staff from over the years.
One very special event was the official naming of The Secret Park on Dock Street, so named by the children many years ago.
“The Secret Park is a wonderful place to go,” says Elliott. “A little piece of nature that’s close to us. It’s one of our favorite places to go.”