My son was only 2 and a half when we left Montreal for Calgary.
There were lots of positive things about heading out west, including a better job for my husband and being significantly closer to my family in BC. But I was worried about my son losing his French. I have a BA in French and speak fluently, but I speak to my kids mainly in English while my francophone husband talks to them in French.
When we got to Calgary, my son actually stopped speaking French completely for a while. He still understood what we said to him but would only reply in English.
No longer spending most of his days in daycare en français, I was worried Cub would lose his French completely before he started school. I started looking for opportunities to practise in our new and very anglo home town.
I really struck gold when I found the Centre d’appui familial at La Cité des Rocheuses in Calgary’s southwest, near Mount Royal University on Richmond Road. The Centre is part of the larger complex that includes a French public school and daycare.
The Centre d’appui familial has a library full of resources for the whole family, plus drop-in activities for young kids every day of the week … and all in French!
The library, also known as the Francothèque, isn’t just about books for all ages in French. They also have des jouets (toys) galore!
Oui les amis, a library full of toys. Because why buy new toys the kids will forget in a week when they can borrow “new to them” toys that you get to return once they’re forgotten?
To borrow is better, n’est-ce pas? There are puzzles, board games, toys for babies and even costumes.
Lots of the games are great for learning and practising French, but many toys are just for fun (in any language). Families can join the Francothèque for $30 a year.
The activity room at the Centre d’appui is home to drop-in fun for French-speaking families on weekdays. On Tuesdays, cook with your kids without adding to the mess in your own cuisine, and on Wednesdays les artistes en herbe can do some crafts with the guidance of the animatrice. The room is full of toys, sensory bins and books if the children just want to free play while you connect with other parents and caregivers.
There are also registered activities for a small fee, some for families who speak French à la maison and others that are great for French immersion students.
Eveil à la danse et au rythme is a dance and music class celebrating French Canadian culture. There’s a parent-participation class for toddlers and an unparented class for preschoolers. Miss Cub has learned to play les cuillères and loves singing Scions, scions, scions du bois!
The French Reading Club is available on weekends for kids wanting to gain confidence in their lecture.
There are also weekend and evening activities for the whole family, prenatal and parenting classes and even communal cooking nights and outdoor soccer in the spring.
The staff at the Centre are so kind and so welcoming; if you’re not the French-speaker at home, don’t be too shy to bring your kids anyway!
If you’re interested in joining any of these fabulous activités, sign up for the Centre d’appui’s mailing list to receive notifications and check out the calendar every month. Honestly, just show up for a drop-in activity at 10 am one day and get to know the place.