Seedlings: Where Babies Learn to Play. Like, Actually Play.

"There’s a little studio in a strip mall on Topsail Road where babies learn to play. Like, actually play. They learn to use their senses without technology and it is delightfully refreshing."

Fresh out of the womb, my son was hypnotized by the entrancing screen. We tried to keep monitors to a minimum but sleepless nights seemed easier with the familiar cast of Friends bickering in the background.

Every visitor had their own magic light box and everywhere the baby turned, there was an iPhone in his face snapping pics of his every move. Like his parents, screens became familiar and every time he entered a new space, he scanned the room until he found the magic box. Let’s face it, it’s pretty hard to totally eliminate screens. So, I set out for a solution and that’s when I found Seedlings.

There’s a little studio in a strip mall on Topsail Road where babies learn to play. Like, actually play. They learn to use their senses without technology and it is delightfully refreshing.

Seedlings is the brain child of Roxanne Jaml. After teaching primary school in the Middle East for three years, Jaml moved home to Newfoundland with her Syrian husband Tarek, their baby Laila and another baby on the way. The Jaml’s second child, Jude was born in St.John’s…just 364 days after his big sister Laila.

The growing family was busy getting resettled and Jaml says life was hectic. “As a mom, you’re so busy. We have a million things to do and we wear a million hats. It can be really overwhelming. We are constantly wondering if we are doing the best. I was one of those moms, worrying if I was playing with them enough.” That’s when she decided to open a childhood development centre.

With help from local singer and actor, Claire Rouleau, Jaml designed a program where babies learn through music and play. When Ms. Claire and Ms.Roxanne start singing, the crybabies are silenced…it’s like magic. And these gals are more than magicians with pretty voices…they both have formal educations in child and youth development.

It’s a simple place. The centre isn’t cluttered with busy toys. There are jars filled with lemon, cinnamon, and maple extracts for the babies to smell, pans of warm and cold water for them to splash their hands in, a colourful parachute that the grownups fly above the babies and small percussion instruments that they can use with a little help.

“We try to focus a lot of the elements of learning through sensory experiences,” says Jaml, “anything from visual stimulation to the feelings. We try to stimulate the five senses.”

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Seedlings has been opened in St.John’s for two years and Jaml has added another little seedling to her own clan. Baby Rami is just a few months old. With three kids now under the age of three, Jaml still finds time to run a business and help out in the community. She’s developing a program for the Syrian refugee kids who now call Newfoundland their home.

“We wondered how we could give back because we are so closely tied to the cause,” says Jaml who has family still living in Syria. “It will be a heavy focus on language development as well as sensory development so, that’s something that’s up and coming in the next couple of months.”

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