Promoting Safety, Independence and Calm

In your house, a shoe rack might just be a handy way to keep the entrance tidy and a chair might just be a place to plop into. At Wild Wapiti Playschool in Fernie, such basic items mean so much more.

The child care centre has only been in existence since June 2023, and is slowly adding to the amenities and comforts that make it an excellent place for children to spend time in and that parents can trust. Recently, the playschool added a shoe rack at the front door and three lounge chairs in its preschool cozy corner with support from Columbia Basin Trust.

“Even having these little things contributes to the quality of programming in our classroom and helps contribute to overall child development within our centre,” says Kelsey Ewert, Manager. 

Filling a dire need

The playschool has eight spaces in its 12–36 months program and 16 spaces for three- to five-year-olds—a total of 24 very essential spots.

“We were born out of desperation from three of our founding Board members, who found out that their day home was about to close,” Ewert says. “The initial vision was quite small—one classroom with eight children maximum—but because the demand for child care in Fernie is so dire, that vision very quickly grew.”

With donations and funds coming from sources like the Trust, the centre was able to open with essential amenities. In January 2024, it added the shoe rack and loungers through a Trust program that helped child care providers buy equipment like children’s furniture and do small improvements like upgrades and renovations. The aim is to increase the quality and safety of child care operations in the Columbia Basin, freeing up parents to do their day jobs with confidence and promoting healthy childhood development.

The greater meaning

As for being more than a simple piece of equipment, the shoe rack has several benefits. For example, the hazard of tripping over shoes has been curtailed. Fewer feet traipse across the floors wearing shoes—the kids used to take their footwear to their personal cubbies—including in spaces where younger children may be crawling. The playschool is cleaner and safer.

The shoe rack also promotes independence. “A task as simple as putting their shoes on and off the rack is something that toddlers can do and build their confidence with,” Ewert says. “The shoe rack was a hit right away—as soon as it was put up in the front, the kids were really excited about having a special place for their shoes, so they were really cooperative.”

In the preschool cozy corner, the loungers have also been popular.

“Our loungers and our cozy corner really help create an atmosphere that’s nice and calm. It’s a place where, if they need, children can go to regulate their own emotions or to read a book and find that one-on-one connection with a staff member. It helps bring that level of energy in the classroom down to a nice calm energy when we need it.”

Flexible and varied support

Ewert is thankful for the Trust grant that helped make these additions happen—particularly how flexible it was in allowing them to choose exactly the items they needed. The playschool also takes advantage of a wage subsidy offered by the Trust that helps it strengthen its workforce. To date, various Trust programs have helped create more than 1,300 new child care spaces and improve more than 2,500 existing child care spaces throughout the entire Basin.

The positive effects stretch widely, including in Fernie. “Big picture—the better quality of programming and things we can offer, the more the families benefit,” Ewert says.

Parents can rest easy while their children grow, learn and discover in a safe and stimulating environment.