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KFN daycare staff thrilled about expansion

No one enjoys being relegated indoors for days on end during the coldest period of winter, especially not a group of rambunctious toddlers and preschoolers.

But daycare centre rules state that when it's colder than -25C with the windchill, children must stay inside.

Liam Brunet and Lillie Dumas, both four years old, at the Dene Ts'eh Ts'udaa K'ehondii Koc daycare centre at K'atlodeeche First Nation on June 27. Sidney Cohen/NNSL photo

"You end up with groups of children who are cooped up inside for weeks at a time," Danielle Sachs, the assistant supervisor at Dene Ts'eh Ts'udaa K'ehondii Koc, the early learning and childcare centre at K'atlodeeche First Nation, said Tuesday.

This is one reason why staff are so excited about the daycare centre's impending expansion.

"Although (the children) are still inside, we will actually have enough space to ride bikes or set up a climbing unit," said Sachs.

"It's quite large."

Construction on the addition to the daycare building began in March, and staff say the space could be ready for use this month. A grand opening will be held in August.

With the introduction of Junior Kindergarten to the Northwest Territories school system, the daycare centre was asked to gear programming toward its youngest cohort: children ages six weeks to three years old.

The expansion will give infants and toddlers their own play space, as well as a designated nap area.

It will also allow the daycare centre to accommodate greater numbers of its littlest users.

"It was needed," said Sachs. "Our numbers have still been steadily going up."

Coming with the new addition is a larger space for playing with wooden blocks and an improved teaching area for the older children.

"I've been watching them outside and they'll play with pinecones or rocks… and they'll set up this little world," said Sachs.

The expansion means the children will be able to play in their imagined worlds inside, as well.

"I'm really excited about the opportunities it's going to give us, as educators, to expand our programming, and to play into a lot more of their interests," said Sachs.

Still to be installed in the space is a load of new play equipment, including a foam climber sized for the preschoolers.

The daycare currently has 26 children registered, but not all children appear each day. Attendance depends on their caregivers' schedules.

However, with school out for the summer, the centre's numbers are likely to increase dramatically.

The daycare is licensed for children ages six weeks to 12 years.

The mixture of ages means younger children can learn from older ones, said Sachs.

Elaine Rene Tambour, the daycare supervisor, designed the expansion.

For her, the expansion is a long time coming.

"I've been working on getting the funding for this for 10 years," said Rene Tambour.

Money finally came through recently as a result of the federal government's Aboriginal Skills and Employment Training Strategy, which funds childcare spaces in First Nations and Inuit communities.

Rene Tambour said the expansion and other updates to the facility cost more than $500,000.

It feels "wonderful" to see the long-awaited expansion become a reality, she said.

"All my staff have been extremely excited by it all. They've been peeking at it and keeping tabs."