Linking parents, kids

Parents and children have discovered the newest play space in Red Deer. Family Services of Central Alberta, in partnership with Parkland Mall, opened Village Gate Parent Link Centre and Family Place on Sept. 23 at the mall near Sportchek.

Bubbles the clown entertains Danica Hinch

Bubbles the clown entertains Danica Hinch

Parents and children have discovered the newest play space in Red Deer.

Family Services of Central Alberta, in partnership with Parkland Mall, opened Village Gate Parent Link Centre and Family Place on Sept. 23 at the mall near Sportchek.

At the grand opening on Wednesday morning, mothers said they didn’t come for the official ceremony — they were there to play with their children.

“Whenever I come into Red Deer, I usually come here for an hour,” said Erin Gartz, of Blackfalds, who was with her 20-month-old daughter Kaitlyn in the play space filled with babies, toddlers, pre-school children and their mothers.

“I really like it because it’s nice for Kaitlyn to have all these other toys to play with that we don’t have,” said Gartz, sitting on the floor next to Kaitlyn, who was dropping plastic coins into a toy cash register.

It’s a convenient location on the north end of the city, she said.

Lisa Nord of Springbrook said the Parent Link Centre was recommended by other moms so she decided to check it out for the first time on Wednesday.

“There’s lots of different stuff to do. She likes the tunnel,” said Nord, pointing to her 18-month-old daughter Blakely.

Parent Link is not a babysitting service. Parents must stay with their children. Admission is free but donations are accepted.

Parent Links are provincially funded and offer parent education, early childhood development and care, family support, information and referrals.

Walter Lidster, executive director of Family Services of Central Alberta, said parents wanted a safe and accessible place with resources for them and their children.

“Sometimes parents just want to drop in and meet other parents. Particularly for people new to Red Deer, this is a pretty ideal location,” Lidster said.

The 4,000-square-foot space is divided into a large play room and a meeting space. Seniors and other groups are already using the meeting space and youth activities are planned for the future.

“What we’re going to do is let the programming evolve to what the community wants,” Lidster said.

Bridey Edgar, who lives on Hwy 11A just outside Red Deer and comes to Parent Link with her 16-month-old son Tresten, said it’s awesome.

“My son loves coming to play. It’s a bunch of new toys and other kids for him to play with. It’s affordable. You can donate or not.”

Village Gate Parent Link at Parkland Mall is open Monday to Friday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., except for statutory holidays.

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