Inside Monkey Business Play Centre there is a motorized revolving tree with hanging balls and a foam pit to play

Monkey Business Indoor Play Centre [Review]

The entrance to Monkey Business has two signs viewable from the carpark

The entrance to Monkey Business is located behind the plaza found at Dundas and Hopkins in Whitby. It can appear hidden at first, but just look for these signs!

Monkey Business Indoor Play and Party Centre is a must-visit indoor play place on mat leave for every mom in Whitby. It’s not too big that it’s overwhelming, the centre is spotless and the prices are reasonable for all that’s provided.

Monkey Business is best suited for the under 4 crowd as most of their play structures and activities are small, able to handle 1-5 toddlers at a time. This is 100 per cent the reason why I love coming here so much. At other indoor play centres I always end up acting as a bouncer for the toddler area, as I try to put myself  in front of my child as the older kids tear around. Where’s the fun in that? The whole point of taking our little ones to play centres is to give them some variety to their day, hopefully socialize them and also socialize ourselves! Monkey Business is a perfect set up for this, as the space is small enough that you can take a seat (imagine that) throughout the two rooms while you keep an eye on your little one as they play.

This play centre includes:
  • Two hard play structures
  • A motorized, revolving tree swing
  • A foam pit
  • A doll house
  • A magnetic sand play table
  • A small, single child trampoline
Inside Monkey Business Play Centre there is a motorized revolving tree with hanging balls and a foam pit to play

Inside Monkey Business you can find the one play structure that you won’t be able to find anywhere else in Durham – their motorized, revolving tree with hanging balls! Another favourite is their foam pit where you can shoot tiny basketballs into the hoops.

I also noticed a thoughtful touch here that leads me to think this business is run by people that are invested in making this a good experience for their guests – tissues are provided in clear view for parents to use. Too often businesses are out to nickel and dime their guests, but here, the focus is on the overall experience. Runny noses and wet hands are something we’re all dealing with for kids in this age group. This small but important detail shows a lot of consideration for all their guests and the cleanliness of the space too.

 

A menu board is posted on the wall inside Monkey Business, listing items available for sale.

The entrance to Monkey Business is located behind the plaza found at Dundas and Hopkins in Whitby. It can appear hidden at first, but just look for these signs!

Did you know that you’re also able to bring your own food and drink here? Hunger is bound to strike from all the running around. Monkey Business has plenty of room for parents to sit and eat with their children, with two long benches set up with seating on either side. Highchairs are also provided to make visits comfortable for parents. The only rule for bringing in food is that you only bring along items that are nut-free for the safety of other children.

Price:
  • $7 per drop in play for crawlers and older.
  • $5 per additional sibling, per drop in play.
  • $50 for a family monthly pass. This pass provides you with a full month of unlimited play for three children.
Hours
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First Impressions: Kendalwood Montessori, Whitby

Kendalwood Montessori

Kendalwood Montessori is located on Consumers Drive in Whitby, close to the 401 and Whitby GO station.

Sadly, the exterior doesn’t do the interior justice at Kendalwood Montessori in Whitby. You’d be forgiven for thinking this centre was hastily thrown together in an old entertainment hall, but in reality this location has been beautifully renovated to suit the school’s needs. Once you drive through the carpark and see the full length of the building, you’ll get a sense for how fast this centre is expanding. Only this year, three new classrooms were completed to meet demand.

Inside, you’ll find some of the most thoughtful touches that easily justify enrolling your child here. For every classroom in the building, you can find full, A4 page profiles of each of the teachers posted to the bulletin boards around the school. These profiles describe the educational background of the teacher, a brief bio and also mention what makes them passionate about working in a Montessori setting. Security is a priority for this centre at it’s multiple entrances, which help to manage the pick up and drop off traffic from all the parents. Each entrance is fitted with a security camera in the entrance way and then again in the areas where the children’s cubbies are kept. After two years of touring child care centres in Durham, I am yet to see this feature anywhere else! Parents are also provided with their own key fob to enter the building, saving staff from interrupting programming to let parents in and out of the facility.

French is provided at this centre and students as young as toddlers benefit, at no extra charge to the standard fees that you would pay. Daily, 15 minute classes are provided to toddlers, which gradually increase as they progress through the Montessori school system.

  • Kendalwood Montessori accepts children from 12 months and up.
  • Centre hours are from 7am-6pm.
  • Full time care for infants aged 12-18 months ranges from $1090-1200, monthly, depending upon the drop off and pick up times you choose for your child. This rate includes a hot lunch.
  • Full time care for toddlers aged 18 months to 2.5 years ranges from $1020-1130, monthly, depending upon the drop off and pick up times you choose for your child. This rate includes a hot lunch.
  • A one-time registration fee of $100 is due upon registration for new students.
  • A $400 deposit is required upon registration. This amount will be deducted from the June tuition.
  • This centre accepts students for full time care, only.
  • All program costs – French, Music, Gym and field trips are included in the above fees.

 

First Impressions: Apple Tree Academy Brooklin

Apple Tree Academy Brooklin

The main entrance of the Apple Tree Academy building is accessible from the parking lot at the rear, where you can find ample parking.

First Impressions, a series about my experiences touring through day cares in our region is back for 2016! In my most recent tour, I visited Apple Tree Academy in Brooklin.

The location for this facility is perfect for parents who take Winchester Road (Hwy 7) to get to work. The centre is located right on Winchester Road, making dropping in to this centre before and after work very, very convenient. You can spot the building from the main road but the entrance is tucked away at the back of the commercial complex. There is plenty of parking available, making drop off and pick ups faster because you won’t have to fight for precious car spaces with other parents.

This is the second daycare I’ve found in the Whitby/Brooklin area that’s located so close to a coffee shop (the other is Helping Hands Whitby). Which, I’m beginning to think is not just a handy coincidence but potentially a great tandem business idea for all other centres with lots of tired parent traffic!

Most centres I visit are a blend of old and new, but this one is so new that you’ll wonder if you’ve walked into a kids dentistry instead. My mind kept wandering as I admired the fresh paint on the walls and colour-coordinated furniture. I spent too much time trying to work out how long this centre has been in operation. On my tour I visited all the rooms in the centre, and was introduced to all the staff along the way who responded with warm smiles. Staff interaction will always vary on any tour, and I don’t always expect everyone to be bright and perky when I meet them. Staff are, after all, working with a large group of kids all day! What I do look for is how staff interact with each other, and in the moments when staff do talk with me, I am looking to see that they do so with confidence and willingly.

Once your child is in someone else’s care, you can expect awkward conversations about accidents, misbehaviour or maybe even developmental issues, so confident communication from childcare staff is something I value highly. At Apple Tree Academy, I was pleased to find that all staff greeted me without being prompted, made eye contact when talking with me and answered my questions with honesty, particularly when asked about transitioning children into care.

Apple Tree Academy is unique in Durham in that they offer three free days dedicated to transitioning your child once you register. These days are intended to slowly introduce your child to their new routine. Day one involves staying at the centre for one hour, day two increases this time to 2.5 hours, and the duration of day three will be longer based on how your child adapts.

  • Apple Tree Academy is open 7am-6pm, Monday to Friday.
  • This centre accepts children as young as 10 months old, provided they are able to walk and eat the food on the menu.
  • The full time rate for senior infants (10 months-1.5years) is $1125 per month. If you are looking for part time care this centre also offers care for half days for all five week days for $720 per month.
  • There are four rate options available for Toddlers (aged 1.5-2.5 years). For full time care, five days a week, the monthly rate is $900. If you prefer half day care, five days a week, you will pay $578 per month. Parents looking for full time care on alternating days will pay $620 per month for Mon + Wed + Fri, or $429 per month for full time care on Tue + Thu.
  • Onsite laundry is not available for blankets.
  • This centre follows the emergent curriculum.

 

 

If it takes a village to raise a child, let me show you how to build yours.

 

family

Building a happy and healthy family life in Durham took lots of effort and time. Now that I’ve done it, I wouldn’t live anywhere else.

Looking back on my two years of mothering, writing this blog and as an organizer for a local mommy meetup group, my mission has always been to support new moms and build their village when there is none. Creating strong community networks is something I’ve done twice now – once as an immigrant when I first moved to Canada, and again, when I became a mom and moved to Durham when my son was born. It can be done, but for some it takes practice and for others they need a guide.

Let’s face it, mat leave can only be understood if you experience it.

For the two friends that were brave enough to ask, asked me what I did all day with my time. They were lucky in that they asked me on my more patient days, but the words still stung. My answer? Survive. We’d laugh, but they would both be quiet and stare at me as if they expected more. How could I possibly explain that my day would consist of everything and nothing, at once? How there were moments that squeeze tears from my eyes watching my little boy coo and giggle with me when he woke up, to moments where I forgot how to be myself and relax, when I finally got an hour of solitude while he napped?

Looking back, my first year of motherhood was about extremes.

There were a lot of things that I thought I wanted, and always thought that I would do as a mother that never happened. I lived downtown right before I went on mat leave and assumed that because so many families could be found in the suburbs,  making new friends with kids would be easy. I also had this idea in my mind, that I wouldn’t surrender who I was pre-baby, because I didn’t want to be that person. You can see where I’m going with this. A lot of the women I’ve met over the past two years have a story that is similar. The build up of our identities as new moms, and then the eventual letting go of the parts that aren’t working.

Letting go was the hardest part.

I can’t even begin to tell you all the ridiculous fantasies I had in my head about what I was going to be like as a mother. I’m even embarassed to list them all here. I will tell you one, so that you can see how I struggled. I got this idea that I would be a stay at home mom. Not just any stay at home mom. The best goddamn stay at home mom my kid had ever seen. So I busted my ass to be what I thought “the best goddamn stay at home mom” should be, and I was miserable. I kept going through the motions, wondering why the hell it wasn’t clicking for me. I hit a wall of frustration and exhaustion. The good thing about hitting this wall was that it forced me to stop and re-evaluate.

I spent some time in denial, but bit by bit I made more honest choices.

Looking back, this was the time when I was accepting my new identity as a mom. I remember a family friend in Australia point-blank telling me that she didn’t believe that I wasn’t returning to the workforce. I was supercharged with emotions as it was for that trip, so I was hurt when she said that to me. Our meeting  was the first time I’d seen her in years since my last trip back home, so I felt like she had no idea who I was now. The comment obviously irked me enough to keep thinking about it, only because there was some truth in it. I love the work I get to do in my career, enjoy the types of challenges that come with it, being part of an office environment and dressing up every day. Being a stay at home mom had all the parts that I wanted to have, but during my day I couldn’t stop thinking about going back to work and reading up on the latest trends for my job.

It was at this point when I realised it wasn’t meant to be a battle between pre-baby me vs. the mom version of me.

I was still the same person with the same values, deep down. The difference was that there was still a lot of work to be done to rediscover what was important. What is important. As moms, there is never a moment that we’re not making a decision about where we stand with something, whether it be first foods, day cares to gender-appropriate toys. This pressure will only continue to change and grow as our kids do too.

To stay sane, I’ve realised it’s about making choices that are authentic to me. 

My struggle is still the same now and at best, a fairly innocent and misplaced one. I can get caught up in the busy-ness of all the things I think I should be doing (Handmade Pinterest-inspired holiday decorations, anyone?), rather than focusing on the stuff that is truly important to me and my family. I’m working on keeping anchored to who I am and wasting less time getting caught up in the stuff that doesn’t matter. It doesn’t come easy, but it’s worthwhile when I do.

What I’m passionate about is how motherhood can transform YOU.

So much of what gets talked about post-baby are the physical changes we endure, but what needs to happen is more of a focus on the changes we experience to our identity, our self-esteem and our support networks. The stuff that everyone seems to think just naturally catches up, when it’s actually quite the opposite.

Post-partum depression is more common than you may think, affecting 8-12% of mothers [Canadian Mental Health Association].

This number is unacceptable, and there is so much more as a community we can be doing to reduce this. One of the leading risk factors in post-partum depression is a lack of social support. Many new moms in Durham often move to this community in search of more cheaper, family-friendly lifestyle than what they can find in Toronto, but what gets lost in the move are all the support systems that we all need in our first year as mothers.

Too often many moms like us are suffering, alone.

If your mat leave is or was anything like mine, a lot of it felt like it was spent in survival mode with baby and managing life at home. For so many of us struggling to keep on top of day to day life, finding friends and community involvement are way down our list of priorities.

Yet, social support is critical during motherhood more than ever. 

Generating support and connecting readers like you to the incredible network of mothers in Durham will continue to be a focus for me this year. First, through this blog and also through the local mommy meetup group I organize. The more we can work together to help each other build our village of support, the healthier we will all be for it.

Sign up for the Motherhood Scene newsletter and start building your village today. 

This year you can expect new articles that tell the story of moms like you who live in Durham and read their advice on how they built their village. I’m also planning more of my regular posts that include local business tips, day care reviews and inside information from my team of childcare professionals, the Durham Daycarers, who answer your questions honestly about their profession.

It means the world to me when I know that in some way I helped make another mom’s transition to motherhood that little bit easier. 

I want to hear from you. What’s your story? Since jumping in with both feet to what I can only describe as the motherhood scene in my community, I’ve been a better mother, partner and friend for it. Let’s make 2016 the same for you, too.

 

First Impressions: Helping Hands Brooklin

Helping Hands Brooklin

A view of the Helping Hands Brooklin centre building and playground

 

Child care centre chains are fast becoming a thing in Durham, so this week I wanted to dedicate a little of this post to my thoughts on the change. After visiting Helping Hands Whitby last week, I was a little hesitant to make the trip to visit Helping Hands Brooklin for a tour because one – the dreary weather has me making excuses to stay inside, and two – because I really wondered how different another chain location can be when they are up the road from one other. I’ll dedicate another post to my thoughts on this chain centre trend (I’m realizing I have more to say on this than I first thought), and instead I’ll launch into a review of my tour of this location.

First things first – It felt different. Different enough that I’m glad I did a tour, which I will continue to encourage you to do while you have the time on your mat leave. Helping Hands Whitby is located on the ground level of a shopping plaza, whereas the Helping Hands Brooklin location takes up the top level of this commercial building. Finding the entrance here wasn’t as intuitive as I would have liked (take the elevator, not the stairs closest to the entrance like I did), – that said, the fact that this location really is tucked away can also be a benefit in terms of privacy for the staff and kids.

This centre is large and growing quickly. There are two rooms for toddlers and plans to add more as Brooklin continues to rapidly expand. The look of this centre is closer to a classroom than you’d expect from the outside looking in. Each room is also styled to be unique, with the staff adding their personal touch to the artwork that hangs around the room.

Fast facts:

  • Centre is open from 6.30am to 6.30pm, Monday to Friday.
  • Accepting children as young as six weeks old.
  • The full time rate for infants is $258 per week. Part time care is not available.
  • The full time rate for toddlers is $205 per week, or $46 per day for part time.
  • $325 is required upon registration. $25 of this is the registration fee, and the remaining $300 is held as a deposit that is applied to your last week of payment.
  • All rates include lunch and snacks twice a day.
  • Laundry is available on site.

First Impressions: Helping Hands Whitby

The view of the Helping Hands Whitby centre entrance and playground from inside the shopping plaza

Helping Hands Whitby is located in the plaza at Taunton Road and Anderson Road in Whitby.

I didn’t venture too far from my usual stomping grounds for this week’s tour. This week, I visited Helping Hands Whitby, one location out of a chain of seven day care centres throughout Durham.

At first I wasn’t sure about the location. I liked that the centre could be found at the corner of a major intersection (Anderson and Taunton) which is perfect for commuting parents. Situated within a shopping plaza, this centre is tucked away quietly in the corner, away from the majority of the traffic that passes in through here. A bonus is the Starbucks which is conveniently, only steps away. Perfect for those mornings that you’ll more than likely need a caffeine boost.
I originally thought the facility design was one of the downsides to choosing this location, but that was only until I toured inside. The front door is secured with an intercom and pin code entry, with the centre Director’s office window looking out at the front entrance. Any concerns that I had about the location disappeared and I could focus on the energy and warmth from the staff inside.
Take a look at the dozens of cards that line the walls when you first walk in and you’ll read the many handwritten messages from parents who adore this centre. Transparency and communication are important here, not just for prospective parents reading messages like these on the wall, but also in the day to day program for all the children that attend.
Each room at Helping Hands Whitby is equipped with an iPad that allows staff to communicate with parents through messages, photos and daily reports about their child, using a private and secure program. This is a huge advantage for parents that go here. Most centres I visit use a paper-based reporting method which has its downfalls. It can take longer for staff to write paper reports, filing can be messy and it becomes difficult to review past information for both staff and parents. This classroom tool at Helping Hands Whitby makes adding your name to the waitlist well in advance worth it. If you’re planning on heading back to work after mat leave, you’ll be grateful for the convenience of email messages throughout the day, as well as photos from staff. The warmth of the staff, convenient location and communication tools make this centre a must-see for North Whitby parents.
Fast facts:
  • Centre is open from 6.30am to 6.30pm, Monday to Friday.
  • Accepting children as young as six weeks old.
  • The full time rate for infants is $255 per week, part time not available.
  • The full time rate for toddlers is $205 per week, or $46 per day for part time.
  • $325 is required upon registration. $25 of this is the registration fee, and the remaining $300 is held as a deposit that is applied to your last week of payment.
  • All rates include lunch and snacks twice a day.
  • Bedding must be taken home each week, laundry not available on site.

How to work with your child’s preschool for a gentle transition – Part 2

This post is a follow up to How to work with your child’s preschool for a gentle transition – Part 1, which was posted earlier this week. This feature was originally published in Fall 2015 edition of The Local Biz Magazine.

The cover of the Fall edition of The Local Biz Magazine

Step 4: Build relationships with other parents.

There are many benefits to knowing another parent at your preschool. They’re familiar with preschool rules, opening hours and may even be able to help out by picking up your child in an emergency. Familiar relationships with another family is not only good for your child, but for you too. “Parents are able to help share tips for helping children transition”, says Maria. Most are more than willing to share their advice after experiencing similar struggles firsthand. If your schedule allows, make the time to attend organized preschool events that encourage parent interaction. If scheduled time off is not possible, spend a little extra time at pick up and drop off times to be friendly with other parents. Repeat, positive interaction with another family can help your child to overcome any shyness or discomfort in the new environment. Be open to invitations for play dates or even organize one yourself. “If you develop a friendship with another parent, it can help to meet up with their child outside of the classroom to build familiarity with your child,” says Maria. Opportunities to interact outside the preschool environment can build trust between your child and their classmate, easing transition challenges at preschool. Encourage other children to help. Having good relationships is important for adjusting to a new environment and can help an uncomfortable child feel at home. “A friendly child in the class can make all the difference for a child that’s struggling to find their place in a new environment,” says Maria. Parents can help their child to develop friendships with other children by helping them practice classmate’s names and encouraging them to say hello and goodbye to classmates at the end of every day. Developing social skills takes time and practice. Families can help children learn by encouraging interaction outside of preschool in group and sport activities. Bring something from home. Bring a familiar blanket or teddy bear to keep at the centre and keep any anxiety at bay. “These small items can make a big difference,” Maria says. “As part of the Emergent Curriculum program, we will display photos of each preschooler’s family on our walls. We find that this can help children to feel more comfortable while in our care.” “As parents, we are limited to the number of items we can leave with our child at preschool. Something that worked for my son was applying a little of my perfume on his blanket every Sunday before he went back to preschool. He would be reminded of me during nap times when he’d miss me most,” says Esperanza. Check with your preschool about what you can bring from home as there are rules that affect licensing.

Step 5: Start support in the home.

It can be frustrating for prepared parents to examine their own techniques at home, but there are ways to support children through the change. Transitions are temporary, so being open and flexible is key. “Children can find it hard to readjust to a preschool routine after weekends, or if a child is attending part time, after any break from their preschool routine,” says Maria. Incorporating a similar meal and nap routine in the home can help ease the transition from weekend to weekday. Be observant and take clues from what you find in the preschool. Sometimes it can be as easy as incorporating similar learning materials or furniture in your home, or as Esperanza experienced, incorporating similar rules. “After every meal, my son was taught to scrape the food off his plate before leaving the table. I hadn’t realized this at home and was frustrated with him for dirtying his high chair. How frustrating this must have been for him to learn one way at preschool and another at home. After talking this over with staff, I learned that this was part of their routine and have now incorporated it into our mealtime routine. That’s one less struggle to worry about for me and one less frustration for my son.”

Step 6: Throw away any timelines.

While transitions are often temporary, it’s best to avoid holding any expectations for how and when your child will adapt. Maria says, “Depending on the age of the child, needs, and their resiliency, it really does vary. Some children adapt within the first couple of days to the routines, others could take up to a month. A child’s nature plays a huge part in how they adapt.” There are likely to be days that feel harder than most for both parties, but it’s important to know that good preschools are patient with children adjusting to the change. “We give each child space to work it out,” says Maria.

Step 7: Prioritize quality time to reconnect.

Many parents will experience a strong emotional reaction from their child even when all food and sleep requirements are met. While it can be confusing, often what a child is craving is quality time with their family. In the early days at preschool, time spent apart from parents can feel long. Connecting with them through quality time at the start and end of every day is an effective strategy for easing your child into their day. “What I hadn’t realized going back to work was just how much my son wanted to reconnect with me after a long day at preschool,” says Esperanza. “I spent so much time having meals and bedtimes organized that I missed what my son really needed, which was the one-on-one time together that we had before our routines changed.” Talking to your child about how they felt during their day can help them to understand their emotions and help you to guide their coping strategies. This becomes even more important if you notice that your child is upset or afraid. Maria says, “If a child is upset being at preschool, a parent should acknowledge that feeling and talk about what upsets them, empathize and tell them that they understand they are feeling scared.” Talking through emotions can help bring sense to what a child is feeling and may even uncover the source of their anxieties.

Step 8: Trust your instincts.

Children are more resilient than we give them credit for and the majority adjust in their own time. If you begin to suspect something else may be interfering with your child’s adjustment to their new routine, talk it over with your preschool supervisor. Many are able to refer you to outside resources in the community that can support your family and answer questions beyond a preschool’s expertise.