I keep running into new parents who are also new to Vancouver. And pretty soon after, I end up spending a good chunk of time spewing out knowledge on places to meet other new parents, activities to do with your babies, and other sundries. In the interests of sharing this knowledge with way more parents are on maternity leave or paternity leave and Googling for answers, here’s my brief list (current and useful as of 2012).
Parent-infant drop-in groups from Vancouver Coastal Health
Vancouver Coastal Health, our local health authority, runs free parent-infant drop-in groups all over the city. They’re ostensibly about getting your baby weighed and reaching out to the VCH community nurses, but they’re also a sly way of getting you out of the house and meeting other new parents. Half the allotted time is usually just spent sharing or socializing.
There are six VCH community health centres who organize about 3-4 drop-in groups each, scheduled all over the week and located all over Vancouver (so at least one likely fits your nap schedule). They don’t really say it, but you can go to any of them even if you don’t live in the specific neighbourhood for that group. I ended up going to three for various reasons, and my favourite was Raven Song—-the nurses were really helpful, the meeting room is really nice, and there’s a ton of student nurses who help you out with weighing or holding your baby while you run to the bathroom.
Anyway, to find the group nearest you, here’s the main VCH drop-in group page with all the Vancouver health centres listed at the bottom. Click each health centre to see the group locations in different areas of the city—-for example, Pacific Spirit was the centre nearest to me, and they run 4 groups on the west side of Vancouver.
A note: most of the groups are up to 12 months only, because once your baby starts moving, it’s too disruptive for the group to manage. But toddler groups exist for after that (and by that time, you’ve typically met enough parents in the neighbourhood to meet up with on your own).
Movies for Mommies
If you just want a break from home, Movies for Mommies is a weekly movie event at two independent theatres in town (and one in Burnaby). You can bring your baby and nobody cares if they cry while the movie’s on. Plus they’ll turn down the sound for loud bits! Sometimes there’s free promo tables or services at the events, and there’s giveaways for board books and other products. They’re typically held on Wednesdays and Thursdays, but they’re on hiatus for the summer.
Here’s their main website, and here’s their Facebook page, where you can usually find out what movie is playing far ahead of time!
As well, the Ridge Theatre at 15th and Arbutus has a top balcony “crying room” where you and your baby can enjoy the film without driving other patrons nuts. The sound is piped in over a speaker and you can even adjust the volume. Be warned: it’s a bit hot. But still fun!
The Family Places are fantastic resources in town: they are basically houses converted to play centres for young children, and anyone is free to drop by there with their kid to play for just $2. Think of it as a daycare-like space where every baby still has their parent/caregiver with them. These places welcome young babies but are astronomically better if your kid is walking and playing with others. They also run structured programs like Mother Goose storytimes and caregiver support.
There’s five Family Places across town: the Westside, the Eastside, Mount Pleasant, Marpole Oakridge, and South Vancouver.
Drop-in play gym
Almost all the community centres in town run drop-in gym times, where you can show up with your baby and they can play with toys and climbing equipment in the gym. Here’s the list of community centres on the City of Vancouver site: check out the time of the drop-in gym nearest you!
Again, if you don’t mind secondhand items, kids swap meets are the best places to get your baby stuff. The swap meet name is a bit of a misnomer as you don’t need to bring anything to “swap”: it’s really more like a garage sale where awesome kids clothes and toys are on sale for $1 each. Each community in Vancouver seems to run at least one swapmeet a year, but they don’t give a ton of notice as to when they’re happening—- you’ll find out maybe about a month in advance at the earliest. Also, it probably goes without saying, but get there early for the best selection. Although I understand that if you go late, you can also swipe stuff people are trying to get rid of at rock bottom prices. So we all win?
Anyway, where’s the next swap meet? Obsessively check Kids Vancouver for the up-to-date schedule.
If you don’t know about it already, the kids and baby section of Craigslist is also an amazing place to get used baby stuff at reasonable prices. Many a Bugaboo has been bought here at low, low prices. Here’s the link.
There’s a ton of websites that offer you time-limited deals on baby stuff, kind of like Groupon. This can get exhausting but it also can save you a ton of money on things that you were thinking of buying anyway (carriers, accessories, etc). The most well known is Babysteals.com, but there’s a billion more.
Parent mailing lists
There are a wide variety of parent mailing lists that keep you up to date on what’s happening around the city and special deals you can get at stores and stuff. A non-exhaustive list:
And that’s all I can think of!
Drop a comment or send an email if there are corrections or updates, and the like.