My son was two-and-a-half when my family left Montreal to move to Calgary. There were lots of positive things about heading 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 French 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 stopped speaking French for a while. He still understood what we said to him but would only reply to us 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 practice speaking French in our new and very anglo hometown.
I 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 a 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… 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 your kids will forget about 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 practicing 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 your kids 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 rhythme is a dance and music class celebrating French Canadian culture. There’s a parent-participation class for toddlers and an unparented class for preschoolers. My son 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 communal cooking nights and outdoor soccer in the spring (COVID-19 permitting, of course - many of these activities have temporarily moved online).
The staff at the Centre are so kind and 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!
Lindsay is the creator of Maman Loup’s Den, mamanloupsden.com, an incredible local resource for parents interested in eco-parenting, francophone resources, and parenting advice for families with multiples.
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