Smart Cookie Club offers play-based enrichment for children, caregivers, and parents through classes and programs across the city. We sat down with co-founding teachers Talia and Mary to speak to us about their experience at Artscape Youngplace. Smart Cookie Club is currently in Suite 306, and will be taking over Flex Studios 108 and 109 as permanent tenants later this summer.
Can you tell me a little bit about Smart Cookie Club? How did you two meet and how did it all start?
MARY: Talia and I met working in a daycare in Toronto, and as soon as we met we just knew that we were perfect partners for working together. We shared the same philosophy and attitude towards education and teaching children. So we teamed up and started the Smart Cookie Club. We knew there was a need for that little gap between the education of children and the parenting of children. Parents aren’t necessarily educated to teach their children, they have other areas of expertise, so what we intended was to sort of bridge that gap and inform the parents a little bit more about what their kids are learning, how they are learning it, and how to support them more at home. We started offering play-based enrichment classes in order to promote and teach all of these things.
*Smart Cookie Club only offers Preschool and Before and After School care at the Artscape Youngplace location, but their classes operate in other locations at Bloor west, Liberty Village, St. Clair West, and in the Forest Hill area.
You began as flex studio members and so you have been a part of this building for a few years. How has being in this building impacted your programs?
TALIA: Along with the CMCP downstairs, there has been an increasing amount of programming going on for young children, which has brought us lots of clients. We have also been involved in events with AYP, Koffler, Small World, and Givins/Shaw so I think the community got to know us a bit better and vice versa. As a result, we were able to listen and respond to the needs of the community. There seemed to be a lack of preschool and after-school care in the area so we expanded our program to meet the demands of our client base. We really wanted to meet the needs of the community, and even though after-school care was never on our initial agenda, it is really nice that we are able to do it. Artscape has been great building for us, there are tons of families and it seems like the demographic of visitors to the building is really changing. This community in particular has been so successful for us. Compared to the other communities, I like to say it is one of our favourites because of the people and the families here. It was really easy for us to decide to lay down some roots here with Artscape being the perfect facility, and everything just worked out for us really well in that sense.
With the new studios, we want to be able to offer our programming but we also want to be able to accommodate those other groups who have been previously offering various children’s programs or services to families. This way we’re supporting other local businesses and people in the educational field and early years’ sector.
That give back to the community is really great; it is something that is very important to Artscape and so it seems like a perfect alignment with what we want to achieve. What will it mean for your programs moving into this new and bigger space?
TALIA: It means that we can take more children in our space and expand our programming. At the moment we are in a smaller space and as we are currently unlicensed, we can only have up to 5 children in our care. Now that we have got these larger spaces more, families will be able to come in, and we can really service the before and after school need as there are currently large waitlists in Trinity Bellwoods. We will still be offering our programs as usual, but now just on a larger scale.
MARY: We are also excited to move down to the main level to meet more people and learn more about what is constantly happening in the building. The main level is extremely vibrant; everyone is coming in though the doors and it’s easy to develop new relationships with different community and Artscape members.
What is your favourite part of being in the building?
MARY: I really love that the hallways are gallery spaces, especially running a preschool program; it really generates intellectual conversations with the children, which is a really important part of what we are doing. The building is constantly changing, there’s always something new and interesting going on. I also like the sense of community where I feel as though every person that uses the building is invested in it.
TALIA: Agreed. I also think that being a part of whole building events, like Halloween for example, has been great for us. We get to meet new people, see people we already know and learn more about the building and what’s going on in the neighbourhood.
What’s next for Smart Cookie Club?
This is going to be keeping us busy for a while – obtaining a childcare licence and expanding our programs! Once this is running well, we will have the opportunity to expand in other areas and meet the needs of more and more communities.