Moms, dads, and kids under six years of age, are asked to mark their calendars for the annual Teddy Bear Picnic set to take place this summer on June 7-8 in Peace River, AB.
Peace Region Family Resource Network program coordinator Lindsay Gauvreau says the Teddy Bear Picnic is essentially a giant trade show for families to learn what is available to them in the community and to have a great time with one another.
“The Teddy Bear Picnic started in 2014 as part of our regular weekly programming,” explains Gauvreau.
“We were Peace Parent Link at the time and our mandate then was to serve families with children 0-6 (years) and to build kindergarten readiness and developmental skills in small children.”
Gauvreau says because children learn best through playing and parents are more likely to attend events their children will have fun at, they decided to set up an interactive activity kids could do with their teddy bears while parents were collecting information.
“Another reason that we continue to make this event a priority every year is because families are busy and it’s really great to have everything in one spot, at one time, that you can check out, ask questions and get connected,” she says.
“Organizations that attend have to provide a service or program for the zero to six crowd or provide support services to parents (families) in some way. This event is free so one of the things we ask our partners is not to charge or sell anything to families at the event.”
Gauvreau says booths are welcome to promote their organization, but they do not want families to be pressured into spending money at the event. The sole purpose of the event is to promote services and provide information to attendees.
“We are also not limited to having to be a Peace River only organization, anyone from the region is welcome to attend,” says Gauvreau.
“Each year the event has gotten bigger, more agencies added, more people attended. It is incredibly important to us that the play component remains the same, organizations have to provide an interactive activity for the children, and the organizations that get involved are so creative and I think have a lot of fun with creating and organizing their booths.”
Gauvreau says that the event has many areas and activities that are designated for babies and tots, however most booths focus on ages three to six. She says they try to focus on the preschool and kindergarten age because it’s a time in development when parents have a lot of questions. Families are starting to think about school and need help determining what is next for their child.
“This year’s event will be the first time we are doing the event in two days,” she says. “One of the things that has happened as the event has grown is that the local and regional schools (preschool and kindergarten classes) attend the event with their students. It’s a great field trip and we want to continue to encourage the schools to attend, but we do want to make it more user friendly for them.”
She says Wednesday they will be welcoming schools to book their visit to the picnic, while Thursday will be open to the public.
Gauvreau says past participants have included health and safety organizations like Alberta Health Services, FYI Doctors, tiny Teeth Oral Health Program, Speech and Learning Programming, RCMP, FCSS and many others.
“They are super creative with their booths, children and their teddys can get their teeth checked, get a tattoo, visit a teddy spa, go mini golfing, and other things,” she says.
“Those are just some of the past interactive booths that have been presented. One of my personal favorites was when the AHS public health nurses fixed up teddy bears, they stitched up holes, gave bears a check up it was so much fun and so interactive,” she adds.
The event is hosted by the Peace Region Family Resource Network, a family support program that was created by the Alberta Government in 2020.
“We are 100 per cent funded by a provincial grant, and our role is supporting families, connecting them to resources and social supports, building capacity and confidence in parents and supporting the overall well-being of families in our region,” say Gauvreau.
“We accomplish this by providing parent education programs, parent support groups, and play-based programming for children zero to six. We also provide interactive learning programs for kids 7-18 and one-on-one support for families through our Building Stronger Families Program.”
Gauvreau says the services provided by the Family Resource Network are free, and the facilitators are well-trained and educated in child development, attachment and parenting support and education programming. They have a drop-in HUB centre upstairs at the Baytex Energy Centre that is open six days each week for families to connect and to learn about the services and resources available to them.
If you would like more information about Teddy Bear Picnic, would like to book a booth, or have more questions about what the Peace Region Family Resource Network offers, please email or phone Lindsay at firstname.lastname@example.org or 780-624-0770 extension 2510.
By Emily Plihal, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Original Published on Mar 02, 2023