New space lets parents socialize while children play

Parents and preschool-aged children in Benalto have a new option for activities.

Parents and preschool-aged children in Benalto have a new option for activities. Red Deer County’s CHIPS (Children’s Indoor Play Space) program held its first session last Wednesday in the Benalto Baptist Church gym.

Running every Wednesday morning from 9:30-11:30, the program aims to provide children newborn to 4 years old the opportunity to play together, in addition to allowing parents to socialize.

The program was spearheaded by Pam Hetu, the Family and Community Support Services (FCSS) district community worker for west Red Deer County.

“There isn’t a lot of programs for children 0-4 in age. It’s great for the community because it will help area parents get out and meet other parents,” said Hetu. She added that it also allows similarly aged children to meet each other. “It’s great to have this so parents can meet other parents.”

A few parents had requested the program due to the lack of facilities for young children in Benalto, said Hetu.

“This is just one of the programs that I’m going to facilitate until it’s sustainable,” said Hetu, who has organized a similar program in her home community of Spruce View.

While still in its infancy, the Spruce View program has about six families that attend, said Hetu. So far, there have been positive reactions to the program, with parents excited to attend in coming weeks.

Hetu expects similar attendance numbers in Benalto as more people learn about the program.

“You just have to give it time,” she said.

CHIPS is run by volunteers. Hetu approached Patti Sahlin, who runs the only licensed day home in Benalto, to volunteer for the program.

“Everybody has told me there’s a great need, there’s nothing and they were very happy when I agreed and said I would do this,” said Sahlin. “If we didn’t have this, there’s nothing here.”

Sahlin cares for six children at her day home, ranging in age from five months to five years. She said some of the children’s parents don’t often have the opportunity to meet other people.

“It brings out moms that don’t normally get out,” said Sahlin. “Basically we just let the parents get to know each other and the children can play.”

The CHIPS program will run from October until May. All attending families pay $4 per family per visit, which funds the facility rental.