Twelfth Ave Strong Start

Learning in the Spirit of Wonder and Joy

Goodbye for the Summer

Dear StrongStart Families,

What a year this was! The year was stressful, challenging and a real rollercoaster of emotions for us all.  Now, as we close the center for the summer, I look back and fondly remember all my StrongStart families, hoping this finds you healthy and well. I remember our times together, recent, and not so recent. I appreciate your trust and the relationship we have formed and partnership in teaching your children together.  It has been my privilege to support your family and delight in watching your children grow inch by inch and milestone by milestone!

As I remember this year, I appreciate re-connecting with many of you for our fun in-person visits and on Zoom for our Storytimes or Learning Together. With some of you we only talked by phone or exchanged e-mails, but there was always joy in connecting, and I hope to see you back in person in the fall!

I am proud of our StrongStart graduates who will start Kindergarten in the Fall of 2021.  Best wishes for success in school, I know your children will have a great year in Kindergarten: meet many new and keep old friends, learn and have fun together. I will join our dedicated early learning team for the Welcome to Our School event and for their gradual entry as we build a bridge for them to cross into Kindergarten with confidence and excitement!

As is everybody, we are hopeful about gradually returning to normal! We do not know details yet about our re-opening in September, but we will find out more from the Ministry of Education sometime in August. In the third week of August the StrongStart registration link will be posted here: for everybody (new or previously registered families). As you all know, our school district is tirelessly working to support our children and community. Please stay connected with the Burnaby School website for updates about StrongStart. There will be more resources posted for you there as well.

I just wanted to pass along some summer activities over to you to enjoy together over the summer:

  • A list of simple things to do in Burnaby over the summer (put together by the Burnaby Public Library – please click on the following link) SRC summer challenge final
  • Burnaby Family Life is hosting “Together at the Park” – activities at different parks, on different days and times throughout the summer. Registration is required. Here’s the link for all the locations, times, and registration –

Enjoy the summer and I hope you and your loved ones stay healthy and safe!

Much love to all,

Ms. Lillian


Play Toolkit

Play Toolkit for Parents and Practitioners

Dear StrongStart families,
Some of you have asked me about easy activities to do with your children over the summer, I would like to share a link for a resource I got from the website of Decoda Literacy Solutions,  BC’s Literacy organization.
CLICK HERE  to access The Play ToolKit from National center for Families Learning designed to help parents support their child’s play at home. It provides background information on the importance of play and practical tips on how to incorporate play in everyday routines. It uses resources that families have at home. Tips and ideas are provided for parents and for family literacy and early childhood practitioners to use with children ages three to eight.
Ms. Lillian

Mud Play

Dear StrongStart families,

Children  have always enjoyed playing with dirt, sand and mud.  It is a joyful sensory experience! It is a messy play and sometimes children are discouraged from playing this way by adults for that very reason.  Children will, when allowed,  happily get dirty and messy and spend their time digging, squeezing, splashing, cooking with mud and making mud pies and mud soups.

It is fun but is it learning, is it beneficial for children’s development? Rest assured – it is! Because it is so important for their learning and development, many early learning programs have started incorporating more playing outside in nature, sensory explorations of dirt and mud and “Mud kitchens”. This type of play enhances children’s learning about world around them and nature through their senses, encourages creativity, builds problem-solving skills, promotes physical development and also benefits their social and emotional development.

I encourage you to try: dress your children for messy play, provide some some dirt and water, perhaps some old dishes and spoons and let the learning and fun start! Make sure there is an easy way for them to wash hands thoroughly after they are done.  If they are playing outside with dirt: check for safety (no animal waste, chemicals, no sharp or abrasive objects) and set a clear boundaries around where they can and can’t dig.

Here are several pictures of a fun day in StrongStart playing with water and dirt in our pop-up mud kitchen. We added freshly cut grass and some sticks, chestnuts and pine cones.

D. was cooking up a storm, first meat balls then he gave grandma a taste of his mushrooms.

Playing with water in nature creates mud in dirt as N. discovered: Look, I made mud by myself!

To find out why playing with dirt and mud is beneficial for children in all areas of child development and for some ideas for mud play read here:

Ms. Lillian

Bubbles, Bubbles and More Bubbles

Hi StrongStart friends,

Sunny weather is here and it’s time to take out the bubble solution and have some fun!

We had fun the other day at StrongStart making gigantic bubbles. Thanks to teacher Beth for making the special wands for us! We used this Recipe for Giant Bubbles:

  • 6 cups of warm water
  • ½ cup of Blue Dawn original dishwashing detergent
  • 1 Tbsp of corn syrup (or glycerin, if you happen to have some)

Mix all of the ingredients together (gently!). The bubble liquid gets better the longer it sits, it should sit overnight at least. The solution gets better with age and should last a while! Tip: just dip wand into the solution, don’t stir or swish, otherwise it creates small bubbles and stops working.

It took some practice. Grandma was modeling and soon- success! A gigantic bubble!

Chasing bubbles was so much fun too!

Sometimes we just watched how big bubbles make amazing shadows!

Sometimes you blow and see them getting bigger and bigger.

Sometimes they just pop!








Babies love floating, glistening bubbles too, what a joy to watch their faces as bubbles shimmer in the sun.  The bubbles will help build their eye-hand coordination as they will want to reach out and touch them! What a wonderful sensory discovery! What happens when you touch a bubble? How does it feel? Show your toddler how to blow gently and slowly, show them how to pop bubbles by clapping them between your hands. What a delight and endless fun as they will be chasing after the bubbles to do it again, and again! Good for their physical development too. By talking about different actions and textures you will help children grow their vocabulary as well.

By adding songs you will enrich their experience. I was inspired to learn a few new ones from the book Bubble Play published by Key Porter Books.

Click here to watch Ms. Lillian sing bubble songs.

For older children we can try counting bubbles, catching them with your hand or your spoon or in a plastic cup. We can chase them,  pop them on your nose, on your neck, dodge them, float them by waving a leaf or a hand to make a motion. Bubbles help us wash our hands, we can wash our dog, we can wash our dolls or toys with a bit of soapy water.

If you do not have a ready bubble solution, you can make your own.

Another Home Made Bubble Solution (Using Sugar)

Mix 2 Tbsp of dish soap (Joy and Dawn seems to work the best), 1 cup of water and 1 Tsp of sugar. Stir gently until sugar is dissolved. Pour the solution into a container and use bubble wands to blow huge bubbles. There are many other recipes, but most require glycerin.

I made some wands from objects I found at home: zip ties, twisted pipe cleaners, a long piece of aluminum foil which I twisted tight, a cut-out lid attached to a chopstick with a piece of duck tape. I made a cone out of a cut-out milk jug with a 6-7 cm opening at one end, secured again with a duck tape (that one made the best bubbles!).

You can paint with bubbles (by adding a tiny bit of paint in the solution in a tray and then blowing them and making them pop on a paper.








Ms. Lillian




Serve and Return

Dear StrongStart families,

Here is a post from our community partner Anita Olsen. Let us SERVE AND RETURN!

As the Early Childhood Community Consultant in Burnaby, I absolutely love visiting the outdoor StrongStart programs. There is something almost magical about the outdoor exploration that happens when parents/caregivers and their children connect with one another.

I spend a lot of time talking about the need children have to feel connected to the big people in their immediate world (mom, dad, grandpa, grandma, or whoever makes up your immediate “family”). When children feel connected to their big people they feel safe and secure, and when children feel safe and secure, they learn that the world is a safe place to explore and learn in. Feeling connected to their big people helps them feel important, and a child who feels important is gaining self-confidence and acts on their curiosity to explore. A child who feels connected to their big people feels that they are listened to and understood – and children who are listened to and understood are far more likely to listen to others (even their big people) and practice empathy.
Being connected with our children through outdoor play offers countless opportunities to engage in what leading researchers at Harvard’s Centre on the Developing Child refer to as, “serve and return” interactions.

For the most part, these are everyday interactions that can happen anytime and in any place. They are back and forth exchanges based on a child’s interest – a child “serves” by showing an interest in something and the adult “returns” that “serve” by responding in a supportive way. Here’s a great example of a “serve and return” interaction.

In this picture, L. shows an interest in the distant sound of a train’s horn, this is his “serve”. Dad “returns” this “serve” by first sharing the focus with L. , he pauses and listens to the train’s horn with his son. Dad continues to return L’s serve by naming the sound, “Yeah, you hear the train”. By naming what our children are seeing, hearing, doing or feeling helps them make understanding of the world around us and what to expect from it – not to mention all that language development it fosters. L. responds to his dad with a train sound – now they are taking turns and L. gets to practice self-control and how to relate to others, in this case his dad. When dad is waiting, giving L. a chance to respond, L. has the opportunity to develop more ideas, build up confidence and independence. Finished with the train’s horn, L. goes back to his leaf collection and dad offers a hand when the leaves are too high.

In those moments we practice ending and beginning – when we can find these moments for our children to take the lead we can fully support them in exploring their world and make more serve and return interactions possible.
Strong Starts are there to facilitate the connection of the parent/caregiver and child relationship – for them to engage in these “serve and return” interactions.

Unfortunately, we don’t live at Strong Start and life is full. Now, if we were able to return every single serve that our child gives us a) we would be absolutely exhausted and b) we’d be robbing them of full human condition! Disappointment or frustration is a natural part of life. Sometimes we may miss a “serve” and that’s okay, there will be more to return. Sometimes our return to a serve isn’t what our little one has in mind and gets upset, this is okay too.

If time is up at Strong Start and your little one serves you with “I don’t want to leave!!!” it doesn’t mean that your “return” has to comply – what it needs to do is exactly the same as what L. and his dad practiced. Share the focus – here the focus is on not wanting to leaving the park. Then you name it – “Sounds like you’re feeling upset the time is up” and wait to see how they respond. Asking a question about what they liked best or if they could stay all day what would they wish to do, can help get into some turn taking – remember, give them the chance to respond. As you move through this with them, honour the ending of the time and associated feelings. Endings can be really hard, and they need practice too.
Share the focus – pay attention to what they find interesting (or hard)
Support and encourage – name it (what they see, hear, feel, do…). Take turns – wait to see how they respond.
Practice endings and beginnings.

If you would like more detailed information about “serve and return” I highly recommend checking out the Harvard University Centre on the Developing Child. 

I look forward to visiting again!

Anita Olson (she/her) ECE, BA, MEd

Early Childhood Community Consultant

M 604 723 9548

3rd Floor – 321 Sixth Street, New Westminster BC V3L 3A7 






A Story About Our First Outdoor Exploration at Our StrongStart

Hi StrongStart families,

We started our first SSC outdoor day by our StrongStart portable looking and finding what gifts nature left for us: branches from nearby trees, some of which were broken by intense winds, and smaller twigs. We could not resist picking a few wild flowers, blew on our first dandelions of the season, and found some leftover pine cones and chestnuts we had played with before. We brought our finds back to the centre and used some colourful yarn and pipe cleaners to attach them to our porch fence to decorate our outdoor space.


We  started with weaving the yarn on the fence, and moms helped. At that point, A. was much more interested in exploring the length of his bundle of yarn, feeling it first, finding it stretchy and unfolding it to see how long it is. What a hands-on way to learn about math concept of length!

In the meantime C. and her mom were busy creating a nature web on our fence, attaching cones, twigs, appreciating the colour and shape of flowers and bendable pipe cleaners along with recycled tart shells. They were supplied by me as a way of displaying some delicate flowers  and chestnuts she cherished.

A. had the idea to explore one of the big pine cones by throwing it on the ground. When he observed that some seeds were falling from the cone, this  kept him  engaged for a very long time. Over and over he was throwing the pine cone. He was mesmerized by watching the falling seed petals and he started changing the height from which he threw the cone and varying force.  I knew that he was engaged in both transformational and trajectory schemes when children study, carefully and intentionally, the interesting changes that happen because of their action. That is why I was not encouraging him to go back to the original plan and why we continued with this explorations, abandoning all the rest of planned activities.

For privacy reasons, those photos do not include his face, but I can assure you he was so focused and engaged in his exploration.

Something of the experience reminded A. of making nests and birds, and he started talking about it. I asked if he would like to build a nest. After seeing his interest piqued, I provided a small wicker plate. I had some play dough we played with earlier at hand. Sure enough, the idea of making the eggs for his nest out of play dough soon came to him (this play was taking place shortly after lived experiences with eggs at Easter). He enjoyed adding to his nest by gifting bird with flowers and blooms and some seed petals from the pine cone.

C.  overheard that we were talking about making bird’s nest and she liked the idea. She got her ‘nest’ dish and asked for a bird. The idea of making eggs was so exciting that little ‘egg gifts’ were soon attached to other objects.

In the meantime, A. continued to have fun with making eggs too and started decorating them with some seeds and wood chips.

The next day, the first thing L. noticed when he arrived on the porch for his indoor visit was the intricate nature web on the fence. He loved it! I promised that instead of outside storytime we could continue to add to our nature web.

L.  was enjoying looking at the objects, touching everything, feeling the textures, soft and stretchy yarn. Baby R. was learning though his senses too!  Seeing how much he enjoyed his sensory exploration, I provided L. with some leftover materials. He was ready to start creating and enjoying new textures.


When we slow down and observe closely, we are able to see children’ s curious minds at work.

Please feel free to send me pictures of those special moments.

Take care,

Ms. Lillian


An Update About Community Programs

Dear families,

I hope you are enjoying cherry blossoms and nice weather! Here is a compilation from Anita Olsen’s Newsletter, thanks Anita!

Click here: FREE Burnaby Programs and More FINAL Spring 2021 Master Burnaby (1) to check out the family program list compiled from The Burnaby Early Childhood Development Table! This comprehensive list has up-to date programing, links to registration and lots of choice for families this spring. Choose from circle times, parenting programs, workshops and more!

Family Services of Greater Vancouver is offering some great virtual community programs – click here: NewWest_CEDS_2021_SpringProgramFlyer to check out all the details. Children’s programing , parenting groups and single mom’s group – if you are interested and would like to register call 604-368-2154 or email

Also, here is now only one phone number and one on-line booking for the province’s age-based vaccine roll-out. Please see the link below, now seniors born anytime in 1950 or earlier can book their vaccine. Translations available on the page  When you are eligible, register online at or by phone at 1-833-838-2323 (toll free). You can also register in-person at your nearest Service BC location.
  • is a Harvard based child development resource for families filled with information about and how to foster your child’s development through games and play. The simple games offered are backed up with “Brainy Background” quotes to provide parents and caregivers more context of what type of learning is engaged. Here’s a little example:

    Anytime anywhere

    Sing, Read, Repeat

    Your child probably enjoys listening to their favorite stories and songs over and over again. After singing or telling stories with them, ask if they want more. How do they respond? Do they nod or squirm away? Talk about their actions like, “You said yes!” or “You look like you’re all done.”

    Brainy background

    Children learn through repetition and shared back-and-forth conversations. Repeating stories and songs helps your child understand the meaning behind words. It sets the stage for talking, and eventually reading. They’re learning the basics of communication!

    Here are a couple of ideas for Spring art.

  • April showers bring May flowers! If you are feeling crafty this morning and have a glue gun, a paper grocery bag and some artificial flowers on hand, you have all the fixings to make a Paper Bag Tiara! First cut off the bottom of the paper bag and carefully roll it outwards all the way down – you will end up with a paper circle. Use the glue gun to tack the bag closed. Have your little one choose which flowers and where to attach them on the crown, glue in place. An easy and beautiful spring crown for your little princess or prince! For a visual tutorial, check out
  •  I hope you’ve been able to take in the beautiful cherry blossoms while they last. There are lots of cherry tree art projects for children to engage with and for a more sensorial experience, you can make your own 3-D  bouquet! With a few gathered sticks from outside wrapped together with yarn or another string, stick this into a clay or playdough base. Using torn up bits of pink tissue paper, dipping them into a little dish of white glue and attaching them to the sticks, your little one can create a 3-D likeness of these beautiful blossoms. Easy and fun! Check out for step by step pictures.

    Here is Anita’s info: If you are interested in a free one-on-one consultation about your child’s development, behavior, parenting tips, tricks and education please email, call or text Anita, to set up either a virtual appointment or a socially distanced visit in one of Burnaby’s many parks. Her contact is: or 604-723-9548.

    Enjoy the Spring and stay healthy and safe!

    Ms. Lillian

Goodbye to Ernie Winch Park

Dear StrongStart families,

We have been visiting Ernie Winch park for many months now as a part of our outdoor explorations on Fridays. Now that the weather is getting warmer, the park is getting busier, and it would be getting harder to find a spot where our small group would be in a bubble. So many children want to join in!

So, from now on, we will be meeting on Fridays in front of our centre and exploring the area and nature around it, close by and further away. Please let me know if you wish to book a Friday exploration visit.

As we say goodbye to Ernie Winch Park, let’s revisit some of our explorations.

We looked around and spied with our special “eye”!

If you look closely, you can spy Grandma M’ s eye too.

We carefully looked using the magnifying glasses for things to observe up-close.

Sometimes we found unexpected, wonderful surprises. D. said delighted “I found a feather, look here!”.

We explored all nature’s presents found in the park. We collected chestnuts and made chestnut stew.

We discovered where we can find seeds and look for more.

We enjoyed using nature’s gifts and our imagination.  L. made a caterpillar and a bumble bee and all made special pinecone ornaments.

We have had so much fun with bubbles!

We wondered what made some bubbles burst fast and some stick for so long? What happened to bubbles when there are strong winds or when is so cold?

We have so much fun playing actively and enjoying the stories.

I wonder what discoveries we will make while exploring the nature around our centre, using our eyes, senses and thinking deeply? In what ways will we discover our creativity and our relationship with new materials? How we will be using our bodies while finding joy in nature and making new friendships?

See you there,

Ms. Lillian


Spring is Here!

Dear StrongStart friends,

Many families celebrate holidays during spring months – Nowruz, Persian New Year, just passed, Passover, Easter and Ramadan are upon us. Maybe you just celebrate Spring and new beginnings. We are still living in challenging, emotionally charged times, but there is a HOPE in new beginnings which is the essence of Spring. Hope holds a central space in all holiday celebrations.

I am wishing you a lot of happy, joyous times together during holidays you are celebrating, even that we have to celebrate with your immediate family. Whether you are celebrating religious or secular holidays, holidays are always about love and HOPE!

My wish is that we all find ways to make happy memories with our family, filled with light, love and HOPE!

Here are few pictures from our art explorations at StrongStart today. Easy art: you can use electrical tape or masking tape and paint over it.

When done, peel the tape off and a nice design appears- just like magic!

E. was very proud of his art!

You can also use Q-tips to decorate the egg cut-out,  just like artists used to do (pointillism) or use feathers to make some marks on the paper.

We used egg shells (desinfected, of course) for our sensory exploration today.

Stay safe and healthy, following all the health recommendations.

Much love,

Ms. Lillian

Additional Community Support For You

The Social Emotional Development in the early years (SED) from Child Health BC has began a public messaging campaign and I would like to share some of their wonderful information. Social and emotional development is critical in the early years (birth to 6 years old). Building the capacity to form close relationships, experiencing, managing and expressing a full range of emotions and exploring and learning about their environments leads to healthy brain development, success in school, increased community involvement and success in future employment. What can we do as parents and caregivers?

The Burnaby Primary Care Network has compiled a contact sheet with various supports from help finding a doctor, mental health support, or discrimination or racism supports.  Check it out here or click on the attached poster – multiple languages available online.

The Early Childhood Development Table has compiled a wonderful program resource for families – check out the poster to see fabulous free programing Burnaby offers for families and children from Mother Goose to Circle of Security, there’s something for everyone! Visit The Burnaby ECD Table at or the Facebook page at:

Information Children hosts an Online Family Story time. Join online for a 30-min interactive story time with songs and easy art activities! Suitable for ages 18-months-5 years old. Register here, check out the attached poster for more information or email/call them – 778.782.3548 to sign up.

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