Community Development

Funding level: Up to $50,000


Imagine you live in a tiny, poorly appointed apartment as a single parent with a seventeen-month-old toddler and a three- year-old child who are both high energy. They love to run and climb, shriek with joy and tussle at play. The city you live in has freezing temperatures often accompanied by snow for about seven months yearly. You cannot take your children to an active play, outdoor park; play equipment is dismantled in city parks during those frozen months. Like many other Canadians, you suffer from social isolation. There are a few spaces you could access that have services matching your family's dynamics; but these are limited and scheduled around hours convenient to the space provider. Or, you could go to the library – but that is a quiet space for quiet words.

In 2016, Statistics Canada reported that there are over three thousand children under age four in Thunder Bay and over 6,500 single-parent families. 13% of children live in low-income homes. We know that one of the ways identity is formed in children is through their built environment. The places children visit as a third space – another home away from home – form their self understanding and sense of value.

The Shire is styled for this exact family dynamic. It is designed for large muscle group development, active running, jumping, sliding, digging and throwing as well as imaginative, creative, fine motor skill refinement. The Shire is being developed for the emotional, physical, mental and imagination formation of children aged toddler to five years. Low-income families with limited access to affordable play spaced and child-development opportunities will be delighted to discover that The Shire is open to the general public at no cost, six days weekly from 9am to 4pm every day! It will be in Urban Abbey - an easy access location in the downtown north ward. The bus stop is right outside the door and there is free parking beside the building.

Imagine you are a three-year-old child again... You open the door of The Shire and you gasp with delight. You have entered a three-level fantasy land with a twenty-foot ceiling. You are in the heart of a forest. Birds and kites are moving in the breeze above your head. You hear birds chirping and water flowing. There is a quirky Hobbit hole with a lush green felt garden beside it. You may crawl down into a dimly lit Dwarf cavern sandbox or climb up to Elvin tree castles! While making yourself at home, you may decide to don a hobbit, dwarf or elf costume. As a Hobbit, you can begin pulling felt plants out of the garden, enter your Hobbit Hole, roll out some play doh green beans and throw them in a pot in the kitchen. Or, you could curl up in the corner window with a little story book. As a Dwarf, you can climb down into a huge sandbox and begin digging up gems, dump them in a wooden crate and drag them to the upper cave. As an Elf, why not climb up, into the trees, peer out the windows and run along upper decks where you can shoot nerf arrows or sit at an elfin table and make a piece of beautiful art. When you are done you can slide down from above and start all over again. Whoever you become, maybe many characters in just one visit, you can enjoy active play, imagination creation, and interaction with other children.

Its hard to believe that this center is free of charge, has new arts and crafts projects daily, and has a children’s Creativity Helper just waiting to assist each child in fine motor skill creative learning, large muscle movement for healthy development and socialized play. Tables and chairs are available off to the side. Bring a picnic lunch to share in the forest, as a family - if you want. Mom or dad can also actively engage with their own child in play. The Shire makes spaces for imagination, creativity, art, play, family bonding and physical exercise accessible to all!

Broker supported

Urban Abbey

Location: Thunder Bay