With winter in full swing, what little green space there is around Alexandra Park often remains vacant, with families not eager to brave the frigid temperatures for a little exercise.
Thanks to the Scadding Court Community Centre (SCCC), however, there is still a way for parents of young children to ensure their kids do not have to spend the entire winter cooped up in their homes.
The community centre offers its own indoor park, with everything from buildings blocks and play mats for very young children to rideable toy cars, bikes and bouncy balls for pre-school children.
There is little question the indoor play area is a welcome feature in the densely populated downtown community.
“It’s a Godsend during the winter because kids can basically be housebound when the weather gets too cold,” said local resident Heidi Mamaril, whose young daughter Eva loves playing at the park. “Living downtown in an apartment, she wouldn’t get a chance to play like this without (the indoor park.)”
While the park itself is hardly new, its offerings have recently been expanded with Healthy Foundations family fitness classes now on tap.
“It’s a parent-child participation program and it’s got activities people can do here at our indoor park or at home because it doesn’t require any special equipment,” said Brenda Morse, SCCC coordinator of childcare and family resource programs.
The free program teaches skills that improve gross motor skills, balance and general health and wellness. Sandy Wright, an early childhood educator at Scadding, said the goal is to introduce the concept of holistic, healthy living to children and parents alike.
“We decided that since obesity rates are rising within little ones, it was important to educate parents about a healthier style of living, teach them some simple exercises they can do with their kids and introduce them to the Canada Food Guide,” she said.
The exercises are simple and cater to youngsters, with one branch of programming for one- and two-year-olds and another for three- to- five-year-olds.
“It’s just about encouraging a healthy style of play with exercises that help with agility, balance and coordination,” Wright said.
The programs benefits will be manifold. In addition to fostering healthier kids, by becoming more physically active and being able to take on the gentle challenges posed by the exercise routine, it will help youngsters build confidence and self-esteem. Improved health has also been shown to increase kids’ performance in school.
Best of all, the program is completely free.
“We want to make sure it’s available to everyone, so they have to register but they don’t have to pay,” Morse said.
Currently, the program overlaps with Scadding’s weekly indoor park program, which runs from 10 a.m. to noon on Thursdays. There are plans to offer the workouts on other days of the week as well, however.
For more information on Scadding’s indoor park and its new Healthy Foundations program, call Sandy Wright at 416-392-0335.