Child-minding offered at five city recreation centres

The City of Edmonton and the YMCA of Northern Alberta have partnered to offer child-minding at Kinsmen Sports Centre and Terwillegar, The Meadows, Clareview, and Commonwealth recreation centres as a year-long pilot program. The service provides supervision for children who are 11 or younger to play and learn while their parents or caregivers use the city's recreation facilities.

"I have used the service and my kids love it. They constantly ask when we can go back; the staff definitely made an impression on them," said Andrea Tarasenko, the city's program manager for physical activities and partnership experiences.

She emphasized the need to break down barriers that parents face to being physically healthy, citing the importance of knowing a child is safely being cared for nearby and providing opportunities for kids to practice independence, problem-solving, and empathy towards others.

A similar child-minding program, run by the city, was suspended at the beginning of the pandemic. Then it was up for review, and it was proposed that the city seek a partner to provide child-minding at recreation centres.

"We thought that this was a good fit because the YMCA has extensive knowledge and expertise in early childhood programming, and they're the largest non-profit child-care provider in Alberta," explained Tarasenko. "It was an important step in bringing child-minding back quickly and efficiently and the city has been wanting to explore other partnerships, so this fit with that moving forward."

The drop-in program, which is costing the city about $1 million for the year, is similar to babysitting. Care is available for up to two hours at a time while the recreation centre is being used, and the service is free for those with a centre membership. Others can pay a drop-in fee or buy a punch pass to access the service.

Play equipment and toys in the child-minding space at the Commonwealth Community Recreation Centre

Commonwealth Community Recreation Centre is one of five in Edmonton where child-minding is offered. (Supplied)

While the program isn't governed by licensing like as a daycare would be, Tarasenko said it's reasonable to expect that it holds to the same standards outlined by the government.

"The YMCA does try to follow that as closely as possible in terms of the way that they run the program because they do run full-time child care in other places and centres," she explained.

About 500 children have already been signed up for the pilot since it launched in the middle of March. It is available six days a week, primarily in the morning and evenings, with some afternoon hours at Terwillegar and The Meadows.

Tarasenko said the plan is to seek council's support later this year to extend the current service by three to five years. "The YMCA is really keen to extend it as well," she added.