Government to distribute parenting resource kits beginning in March

Barb Sweet
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Education Minister Clyde Jackman displays resource kits for infants to be given to parents during a pilot project starting in March. The kits contain books, blankets, bath mitts and other items to help the babies’ parents. — Photo by Keith Gosse/The Telegram

It’s unusual, to say the least, to go to see a cabinet minister about a blankie.

But The Telegram did just that when it asked Education Minister Clyde Jackman why his department has purchased 6,000 Lullaby Blankies.

The blankie in Jackman’s hands at his Confederation Building office is barely the size of a hand towel.  But to a two-month-old infant, it will indeed be a blankie, embroidered with soothing  messages that can be cooed by parents — “Twinkle, twinkle little star,” “Hush little baby” and “Rock-a-bye baby.”

It’s part of a pilot project that will begin rolling out at child health clinics this March. The kits will be available for two-, four- and six-month old infants.


Plans to expand program

And there are plans to eventually expand the resource kit program to 12-, 18-, 24- and 36-month-olds.

The program will cost about $500,000 a year over three years.

Besides the blankie, there are bath mitts, a collection of books selected for their interactive value, tip sheets and activity guides. And there’s a singalong CD featuring local artists.

Children in each age group will get different materials. For instance, the blankie — which helps teach babies about shape, colour, touch and feel — will be included in the kits for two-month olds and the bath mitt in the kits for six-month-olds.

One of Jackman’s favourite items in the kits is the book “Each Peach Pear Plum” which features a game in which traditional nursery rhyme characters like Jack and Jill and Mother Hubbard are hidden in the book’s drawings.

“As you read this kind of stuff you are going to say, ‘OK, even though they are six months old, where’s Tom Thumb?’ And you look around and you point him out,” Jackman said, demonstrating with the book.


As a father of five and grandfather of eight, with another grandchild on the way, Jackman said he believes in the importance of such basic educational tools. He also has a master’s degree in literacy.

“Our promotional piece around play, it might seem simple and trivial, (but) if you are into learning and you see what types of things take place when these type of activities are going on, you would understand more,” he said.

“Whenever I get one of my grandchildren, if we walk up a stairs, I count them. That might seem as simple and silly as anything, but it’s an association, so that with each step, it’s ‘one,’ it’s ‘two,’ it’s ‘three.’”

The kits will be provided to all parents of infants — regardless of income — because it’s about education, not affordability, Jackman said.

“We don’t want this to be seen as for somebody who can’t afford it. This is something that all parents need to be aware of,” he said.

“Research shows more learning occurs between (age) zero and three than will ever occur for the rest of your life in terms of how you absorb. If you look at young children, it just totally amazes me how much they pick up in the course of from, say, 18 months to 24 months. They can go from just a babble to a word to a sentence. That just blows my mind.”

Jackman said he doesn’t think cue card education is natural, where babies are shown flash cards to learn alphabets and other skills.

“You don’t want parents thinking, OK this is a comprehension activity,” he said.

 “You just want them to be aware that in the back of the mind when you do these things, there are other things happening that are preparing your child for a literate world. There are listening skills. There are comprehension skills. There are colouring skills being developed. There are number association skills being developed. So while an activity may seem so simple, there’s a heck of a lot more going on than what people may actually think.”

Jackman thinks parents will like the kits.

“And these are not books you are going to read once and lay down,” he said, pointing again to “Each Peach Pear Plum.”

 “This book, I am telling you, will be read until it falls apart. … Nursery rhymes are wonderful things. I like them and they are great educational tools.”

It may seem like a retro exercise — encouraging reading with books and play with basic items like blankies and bath mitts — but the department recognizes the need to encourage play.

On a personal level, Jackman has taken a back-to-basics approach in his own home, outlawing BlackBerrys, iPads and other technology in his living room when family members visit.

“There is a sign in my basement that says ‘This is BlackBerry area, not my living room,’” he said.

Memorial University early childhood education expert Patricia Canning said public health nurses have been telling parents about the importance of play, language and reading for decades.

“It’s the nurses who really are meeting parents. They are the trusted people with parents. Parents have a lot of respect for public health nurses,” said Canning, asked to comment on the project.

She said this province has a excellent rate of immunization, regardless of social class or any other factor, so the clinics are the best place to reach out.

“(Government) is just helping the nurses to do what they have already been doing,” she said.

Marc Glassman is also a professor in education at Memorial and an expert in literacy.

An advocate of full-day kindergarten and junior kindergarten, Glassman said it’s his personal opinion that the resource kits are a good idea.

“The more information and the more materials that are provided to any parent who wants it anywhere in the province, I think, is money well spent. In the long run we will actually save money by spending it upfront at this point,” he said.

“All of these things would help a child prior to their coming to school.”

The pilot project is being offered by the Division of Early Childhood Learning and the child health clinics, which are operated by the four regional health authorities.

Clinic sites where the kits will be given out are Mount Pearl Square, MacMorran Community Centre in St. John’s, Harbour Grace, Marystown, St. Bernard’s, Bonavista, Conception Bay South, Labrador City, St. Anthony, Forteau, Stephenville, Corner Brook, Deer Lake, Norris Point, Grand Falls-Windsor, Gander, Gander Bay, Lewisporte and Belleoram.

The department hopes to hear feedback from nurses and parents as the first kits are handed out over the six to nine month pilot beginning in March.

For related story, click here.

Organizations: Rock-a-bye, Tom Thumb, Marc Glassman Division of Early Childhood Learning MacMorran Community Centre Lewisporte and Belleoram.The department

Geographic location: Gander Bay, Marystown, Labrador St. Anthony Corner Brook Deer Lake

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Recent comments

  • tommy boy
    February 16, 2012 - 00:06

    clyde don't take all the credit for this latest stunt,share some of it with your previous minister and we all know kathy had her hands in it.we have kids who have to travel on bus to get to school,kids who have to walk to go to school,we have sidewalks not cleared in wintertime and we have kids that need someone to tell their problems to,someone to listen and someone who cared..we have kids who are hungry,kids who are cold.,kids who are afraid because of bullies THERE ARE TOO MANY PROBLEMS IN OUR SCHOOL TO WASTE MONEY ON THOSE GOV. KITS,PLEASE DON'T MAKE THE SAME MISTAKES IN THE EDUCATION FIELD THATWERE MADE IN THE FISHERY,LISTEN TO THE PEOPLES .

  • Kevin
    February 15, 2012 - 17:43

    At 2/4/6 months of age the only thing my kids were interested in was where is the bottle of milk and the pacifier. They certainly would not be able to tell me now what was on their baby blankets. Their mother can't remember what was on the blanket either and she remembers almost everything. When most of the students graduating grade 12 don't know the difference between the words THERE and THEIR, WHERE and WERE I can only conclude that the teachers don't know the difference either. Maybe education would be a better place to spend education funds, since nothing leaps off a page like a misspelt word or a wrod used in the wrong context. (Intentional Errors to prove a point) What a hair brained scheme and what a total waste of tax dollars. Have you totally lost your marbles Clyde?

  • Mary Lou
    February 15, 2012 - 13:01

    Children's minds are developing the most from newborn to the age of three. I think its great to be implementing a program such as this seeing as children mainly learn from play and interactions with family the first few years of their lives. Children are our Future. Great Job Mr. Jackman.

  • connie mitchell
    February 15, 2012 - 09:43

    this is utterly disgusting, i cant belive this, who is running our govt, for gods sake get these people out of here....Pathetic, when u have trawlermen and fishplant workers with no future ......GROSS

  • Bill
    February 13, 2012 - 21:36

    What a ridiculous way to be spending valuable government dollars. We already have a bird-brain scheme that gives every mother $1000.00 to have a child. Now Government feels that in addition they have to provide an extra kit. What happened to Dunderdale's speech about tough times ahead?

    • Dave
      February 14, 2012 - 08:23

      Hey Bill it is 2200 dollars,one thousand up front and an extra 100 dollars a month added to your child tax benefit,still only enough to get you through two maybe three months with an infant and that is only if you put it to use on the child.

  • Joseph McGrath
    February 13, 2012 - 19:09

    At last I know what Confucious was saying when he uttered " Man who shoot off mouth, must expect to lose face." Jackman is the biggest jackass I have ever seen in print.What an absolute idiot. Drop this bull and report to the "HOUSE"if it ever opens again,the amount of tax dollars flushed down the crapper to date by this obscene program.We are treated like fools.

  • Elizabeth
    February 13, 2012 - 13:30

    I am shaking my head here in disbelief and there is so much I want to say about this matter that I don't even know where to begin!!! So I won't even go there except to ask one simple question of Minister Jackman et al...ARE YOU PEOPLE NUTS??????!!!!!!!

  • Seamus
    February 13, 2012 - 13:23

    Wow, not a single positive comment. You all bring up valid points, but I still have a hard time seeing how spending money on any form of early childhood education is a bad thing. Half a million is not going to fix any of the above problems, and some of you have gone in a direction with your comments that has nothing to do with anything. Typical newfie attitude, everything should be better or the money spent elsewhere.

  • Barbara Power
    February 13, 2012 - 13:02

    I think this is a very big waste of money by our Government. Most children already have these materials in their homes. Some mothers will use them but most won't. Keep helping out with programs like we have in our Resource Centres, and there should be more of them set up. These places are excelent places for our young people to learn-by the way they do start at age 0. They have lots of resources and the people in place to help the young parents use them.

  • Gloria
    February 13, 2012 - 12:48

    Who was given the contract to provide those learning tools.What a pathetic joke. Money being given away once again to friends of the government. Please name the contract holder and was it put out to a contract. TRANSPARENCY.

  • Marty
    February 13, 2012 - 12:41

    In my opinion this is a waste of taxpayers money. Parents/guardians who are committed to providing quality early childhood educational experiences will do so without these props, and for-those who aren't, these items will be ignored. I agree with providing access to educational supports to those parents who may not have the resources, but this blitz is a waste of money. I also feel children need less "things" and more one on one attention from their parents/guardian to enhance their educational experiences. It's not always easy to find the time but the payoff for the child makes it the best gift we can give.

  • Yvette
    February 13, 2012 - 12:14

    maybe we could text the lullabye......oh dear god, what have we come to.

  • Charles
    February 13, 2012 - 11:50

    This is too silly to make a comment almost as funny as Jim Bennett saying the liberal got a plan for the fishery...and Dwight Ball wanting to pay down the liberal debt

  • Jennie
    February 13, 2012 - 11:42

    Are you KIDDING ME? This is what the government has decided to do with 1.5 millon dollars? EVERY child in NL already has a dollar store book, and any parent can recite a nursery rhyme. I hope Clyde Jackman reads these comments. what a disgrace. We're crying out for more daycare spots, more affordable daycare if we can even find a spot, and full time kindergarten. These are the issues that NL parents care about, not a freebie from dollerama.

  • Mindy
    February 13, 2012 - 11:33

    Please provide funds to the public library system, they can have more resources and stay open more days of the week- and provide the same service! How about channelling money into the education system?? Second hand stores are full of kids stuff that nobody wants- please don't add to the junk!

  • Lisa
    February 13, 2012 - 10:47

    ARE YOU SERIOUS? This is how you are spending a half million dollars? Can't the government come up with other ways to spend money? What a government we have.

  • motherhubbard
    February 13, 2012 - 10:24

    I'm sure gov. could find better things to do with half a million dollars. Babies have oodles of cheap dollar store junk,,I threw it out by the box load,,that's right,,I couldn't even give it away! There's many places that money would be better spent, the food bank for starts to help displaced workers that will soon need help. How about hospital equipment?,,the list could go on..ohhh myyy!!

  • Steve Winslow
    February 13, 2012 - 09:15

    Isn't he minister of Education? Is he ever going to get around to education issues? I don't mean the social issues around education. i mean real honest-to-God education issues. We have boys in rural areas waaaay behind on every national standard. We have schools that push illiterate students through to graduation. We have too many students who are simply not equipped with the basic numeracy and literacy skills to get reasonable jobs. And he gives away infant blankets. I guess that's better news than facing up to the fact that our educations system is not up to the job. WHEN WILL HE ADDRESS EDUCATION ISSUES?

  • Randy
    February 13, 2012 - 08:48

    What a publicity stunt this is. Here you have clyde, who just barely won his seat,because he ignored the concerns of the peaple of Marystown, screwed up the fishery so bad.and now stood by ,while a bunch of scabs took the jobs of Dads and Grandfathers mostly from his district. This is typical of the present government.. Make ya sick

  • Dave
    February 13, 2012 - 08:32

    Well I am glad that minister Jackman is so entralled with the idea, good for him. Mean while dozens if not hundreds of children are out there in the present system in limbo, waiting for something that may never happen such as placement with a good solid loving family that will care for them, instead they are held in the system while the bleeding hearts of a few who manage the system try and re unite mothers and children even though individual case studies will show that this is not always the best situation for the child. I speak of this as I am directly related to such a matter. The system and its flaws were pointed out in a book by David Bagby and yet after much study the system remains the same. A mother has a child,she is not fully able to care for such child, she has over the years terminations of other pregnancies and yet struggles to raise her child while on the system, her child finally goes to live with extended family at the age of ten. Seven years later after the knowledge of Danny dollars she decides to have another, child is born into the welcoming arms of child protection services where it continues to remain, one year has passed and that child is still no closer to a forever home than the day she was born, mother may remain effected by her illness(addictions) for ever as is evidenced by her record so far in life. Minister Jackman who speaks for this child,not the extended family as they are not included, listen only to the parent who is so full of dishonest statements that they cannot be believed in any matter. That half a million could have been used more appropriately in clearing the system of these forgotten children, why I even know of one case where a child is in placement for fostering and the childs parents are not even in the province any longer but yet their child is and now approaches three years old with no chance of adoption as the system waits for the parents to get better, child has be in the system since birth. I feel for the children as there are so many unfortunate people out there willing to adopt but are being forced to use international services to do so while our own reside in limbo waiting for thoise who control their faiths to wake up.