The key to preparing children for a healthy, successful future lies in shaping a child’s environment – rather than trying to shape the child, Dr. Jean Clinton told attendees at PLASP’s Annual Parent and Community Meeting on October 28. 2019.
A clinical professor at McMaster University’s department of child psychiatry, Dr. Clinton presented a unique approach to child development before an audience of over 850 families, educators and PLASP staff during her keynote speech.
Children are not products of nature or nurture alone, as was previously believed in academic circles. “What we now know is that babies are born with trillions of neurons that aren’t connected yet,” Dr. Clinton said.
With the understanding that the young brain is continually under construction, she urged parents and educators to see their role as that of a gardener, who cultivates and primes the soil to create the best conditions for a plant to grow. In practical terms, this means being an “emotional coach” for a child to learn critical skills like social cues, social expectations and empathy.
“We are our children’s best toys,” Dr. Clinton said. “They learn by being with us.”
At the meeting, PLASP CEO Lynn Hiebert spoke about the organization’s award-winning role in creating such rich environments for early learning and growth. “We know that children’s day to day experiences at PLASP provide the building blocks they need to thrive today and throughout they lives,” she said. “It’s a joy to know that every PLASP experience – and I have witnessed this as I visit programs each week – is woven into the fabric of each child’s life.”
Prior to introducing new Board President, Nadya Tymochenko, President Sherry Fodor spoke about PLASP’s strategic direction for the next three years, and the organization’s expansion to 241 locations across Peel Region and Toronto. Sherry Fodor was recognized for her years of service on the board, alongside fellow retiring board members Paul Kranjac and Paul Street.
Other presenters who spoke about their partnerships with PLASP include:
Mayor Allan Thompson, Town of Caledon
Sharon Hobin, Chair, Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board
Daniel Del Bianco, Associate Director of Corporate Services, Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board
Stan Cameron, Chair, Peel District School Board
Peter Joshua, Director of Education, Peel District School Board
Shawna Campbell, Superintendent of Education, Toronto Catholic District School Board
Cynthia Grundmann, Senior Policy Advisory and Manager, Early Years and Child Care Services, Toronto District School Board
Suzanne Finn, Director, Service Systems Manager, Region of Peel
Marta Catucci, Early Years Consultant, City of Toronto
The event was made possible by support from lead sponsors Grocery Gateway by Longo’s, the Brampton Guardian, the Etobicoke Guardian, the Mississauga News and more than 20 other local organizations.