Family ties

Children, Youth & Families

TIE Tykes program takes a 360-degree approach to child and family wellness.
“It saved my life as a first-time mom.”
Giselle Bernardo, TIE Tykes participant with son Niko.

When one-year-old Niko spends his morning at TIE Tykes, he builds skills through play and socializing that will help him throughout his early childhood. And his mom, Giselle Bernardo, has the chance to connect with other parents.

“It saved my life as a first-time mom,” Ms. Bernardo says. “If there’s ever a moment where you have any questions, you can talk to other moms. [There’s] such a great sense of community.”

TIE Tykes is a free drop-in program based in Winnipeg’s Elmwood neighbourhood, for children under the age of six and their parents or caregivers, who take an active role in working with their children.

“Our objective is to connect parents with other parents and provide them with the resources and the knowledge that they need to know to have successful children and [be] successful parents,” says Arlene Reid, Chairperson of the Together in Elmwood (TIE) Parent Child Coalition. “And it’s a chance for kids to play, socialize and start to work on some of the skills they are going to need when they get to school.”

TIE Parent Child Coalition launched TIE Tykes in 2008, working with three families out of a local church. The program moved to the Elmwood-East Kildonan Active Living Centre in 2011, where it now operates sessions on Tuesday and Thursday mornings, in partnership with the Chalmers Neighbourhood Renewal Corporation (CNRC). A third session, mostly geared toward children ages two and under, operates out of the East End Cultural and Leisure Centre on Wednesday mornings.

Each week, 50 families participate in the TIE Tykes program; Ms. Reid estimates that between 800 to 1,000 families have taken part since the program began.

“We see it as an excellent opportunity to be involved and make those connections to people in the community,” says Dale Karasiuk, Executive Director of CNRC. “It’s been a real bonus because now they learn about all sorts of special events – they learn about food security, and the types of programs we have.”

Children at TIE Tykes are provided with a healthy snack and take part in a variety of activities, including reading, singing, crafts, and stations that develop motor skills. Ms. Reid has seen first-hand how much more sociable and ready for school the children are, as two of her sons have participated in the program.

“They’re successful in school because of this program,” Ms. Reid says. “It’s clear that it really plants the seeds of success for children.”

Parents and caregivers can socialize and gain important skills, such as first aid and food handler training, that not only benefit their family life but could also help gain employment.

“I’ve probably made 20 to 30 new friends just by coming through the TIE Tykes program,” says Ms. Reid. “And we offer different programs that are adult-specific. For example, somebody might learn a new dish or learn how to cook.”

Partnerships are crucial to the success of TIE Tykes. The TIE Parent Child Coalition primarily receives its funding from Healthy Child Manitoba and works collaboratively with organizations like CNRC to deliver programming and services addressing various needs related to poverty. Frontier College also provides programming teaching literacy and numeracy skills.

“We know that there are lots of good players and partners and organizations and agencies doing things in our community,” Mr. Karasiuk says. “Early childhood development is an important component in our plans and we’re pleased to work with the Parent Child Coalition and the TIE Tykes program in meeting some of those needs for our community.”

A more recent addition to TIE Tykes is the Handle with Care program, a series of workshops that build coping skills, promote mindfulness, and enhance community connections.

“We’ve seen in the last number of years, like many other communities have seen, emerging trends related to mental wellness and social isolation,” Mr. Karasiuk says. “Handle with Care is a very specific program that takes parents and children through activities and different resources that help them cope with things, talk through things, and to realize where supports and resources are available to them.”

A Winnipeg Foundation grant supported the Handle with Care program as part of the TIE services.

“The grant is instrumental in helping us maintain the program and also bring in those added resources, especially where we’ve heard from our community that there’s an interest,” Mr. Karasiuk says.

This story is featured in the Summer 2018 issue of our Working Together magazine. Download or view the full issue on our Publications page.

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