Piloting SMART With Multicultural HIPPY
Supporting Mothers and Raising Toddlers (SMART) is a Mothers Matter Centre (MMC) pilot program that was adapted from an Early Childhood Education (ECE) program from Germany named “Opstapje.” Like the Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Youngsters (HIPPY) program, SMART aims to build mothers’ confidence and strengthen the mother-child bond through collective engagement in structured play-based learning activities.
SMART is a 12-week program targeted at HIPPY children’s younger siblings – ages 18 months to 3 years. It’s delivered through 11 colourful and engaging books, six attractive and portable toys, a Home Visitor (HV) manual, and easy to read instructions cards for parents in English, French, Farsi, and Arabic.
We partnered with Immigrant Services Society of BC (ISSofBC) to implement the SMART pilot with 38 families. We supported our delivery partner and their staff in capacity building and technical backstopping along with documenting the learning, challenges, and best practices. This post summarizes our key achievement, challenges, and way forward to bring SMART to families.
Feedback From Mothers and Home Visitors
Achievements From SMART
→ Parents are more confident and empowered as they saw their children accessing and benefitting from high quality books and toys which they could otherwise never afford. Many mothers described being very emotional and feeling pride in themselves as a parent as their participation enabled their children to access high quality learning resources.
→ Parents learn to engage meaningfully with their children ages 18 months to 3 years. It surprised a lot of parents how much the children took away from the activities and how much they could retain. We had many proud parents!
→ Many children’s screen time was significantly reduced by enabling access to high quality toys and books.
→ SMART was adaptable and it was adjusted to fit the needs of the families (e.g., simpler activities for younger kids and use of readily available day to day items available in homes for activities). This helped parents participate in SMART without feeling burdened.
→ Mothers felt more confident as they were able to follow the simple instruction cards for SMART especially as the instructions were available in different language i.e. Arabic, French, Farsi and English.
Challenges in Implementing SMART
→ Logistical management of toys and books delivery to family proved to be challenging for HVs. The toys and books are heavy and taking them out to homes was difficult.
→ HVs did not have a separate set of toys and books for delivering SMART (as different families were on different weeks and it is logistically challenging to carry all the SMART materials with, some times it was difficult for the mothers to retrieve or find certain toys which required to be used again in subsequent SMART activities.
→ Sometimes getting the child to agree to ‘open’ their toy and role play with it required serious negotiation skills and a lot of patience.
→ Sometimes SMART activities use up to three toys for one activity which can be challenging and time consuming for the mom to gather from the kids and make them available for role play. It may be better for activities to focus on one toy at a time.
The MMC is presently taking stock of SMART’s roll out and consolidating learning. Based on this learning and feedback from partner, staff, and SMART families, we will refine SMART and pilot the modified version to test it and fine tune the program in consultation with ECE experts, the staff implementing Opstapje in Germany, and partners and families involved in rolling out modified SMART.
The MMC plans to scale SMART in a year’s time so that more families can benefit from the program.