Introduction

Little Hearts Playgroup is the English version of La P’tite Pasto, a “parent-child” activity for families with preschoolers. Through games, songs, arts and crafts, little ones discover the beauty of family, nature, friendship, and are gently introduced to the loving presence of God and to Christian values, all in a spirit of fun and in a language adapted to their age.



This activity is a great help for parents who are faced with the challenge of transmitting the faith and Christian values to their children.



La P’tite Pasto was created and developed by Christiane Boulva with the help of a team of parents from St. André-Apôtre Parish in Montreal. It was originally tested in collaboration with the Faith Education Office of the Archdiocese of Montreal.



In 2012, Martha Dorotik volunteered to graciously translate the first year of the program. Many friends and family members also joined in this effort. Many, many thanks to the whole team!

The Origin of Little Hearts Playgroup

How do we reach out to young families? How do we evangelize young parents to touch their hearts and help them face up to the challenge of becoming their children’s first faith educators? How will we successfully awaken the faith in the heart of preschool children?



These questions filled my mind and heart when, in May 2000, the Faith Education Office of the Archdiocese of Montreal contacted me and asked if I would develop a faith awakening program for preschoolers (0-5 years old). Inspired by the tried and tested method of “parent-child” activities in the leisure area, I thought it would fit perfectly with a pastoral activity.



Parents would come and learn how to awaken their children's faith while:


  • spending quality time with their child;
  • giving their child a place to play and socialize;
  • and meeting other parents who share their values.

It also seemed important to me that this activity be done in a friendly and pleasant atmosphere, thus attracting families and convincing them to come regularly – thereby increasing the likelihood of parents and children developing a desire to better know Jesus Christ. That is how “La P’tite Pasto” (the French version of Little Hearts Playgroup) was born!



With a group of dedicated parents for who the well-being of families is of paramount importance and whose children were between one and 28 years old, I set out to develop this new program. Because without them Little Hearts Playgroup would never have seen the light of day, I want to name them here and thank them: Sylvie Beaulieu, Nathalie Boisvert, Debbie Bouillon, Michèle Boulva, Véronique Bour, Céline Carrière, Isabelle Duquette, Marie-Christine Herlin-Gervais, Luc Letendre, Josée Létourneau, Line Mallette, Ann Palmer, Geneviève Raymond, Anne-Marie St-Jacques, Fleurette St-Jean, Claude St-Jean and Francine Venne.


Thanks to their experience, advice and efforts, we put together a pastoral tool that includes:


  • A mini-catechesis for the little ones;
  • Arts and crafts related to the theme of the day;
  • A short reflection meant to help parents continue at home the task of awakening the faith of their child.

All this is done in a joyful atmosphere with songs, games and laughter!



In 2012, as an unexpected gift, Martha Dorotik volunteered to translate La P’tite Pasto into English. As a result of her dedication and hard work, we are now able to offer Year 1 of Little Hearts Playgroup to a much wider public. Thank you, Martha! Thank you also to all those members of my extended family who joined in to translation effort: Michèle Boulva, Susan Shaughnessey, Natali Boulva, John Gubany and Joe Vinski.



Each session of Little Hearts Playgroup is presented in a detailed fashion so that any person wishing to be involved in the Christian spiritual awakening of pre-school children can easily do so. The only conditions are: a dynamic and joyful temperament, a strong faith and an unconditional love of children and families.



Thanks to the simplicity of the mini-catechesis and matching activities, Little Hearts Playgroup is a program perfectly suited for children 5 years old and younger, accompanied of course by a parent.



This evangelization tool has been received with much enthusiasm and the demand never stops growing. So it is with great pleasure that we introduce Little Hearts Playgroup to you. It is the fruit of a lot of love and hard work! We hope that others will answer the call to join in!

Christiane Boulva

for Little Hearts Playgroup

A Program That Is Successful Because It Involves The Whole Family



A PROGRAM THAT BONDS FAMILIES

Remember, nothing is more precious for parents than their child and they will look for opportunities to bond as a family. That is why Little Hearts Playgroup is so attractive: parents finally have a place where all their preschool children are welcome! No need for baby sitters! The fact that our activity suits all ages and saves parents time is also highly appreciated.



A FAITH AWAKENING PROGRAM FOR CHILDREN ... AND PARENTS!

Little Hearts Playgroup is a faith awakening program that targets not only the children but the whole family! It is in the midst of their family that children learn about life and faith. The presence of parents at Little Hearts Playgroup is vital because it motivates them to continue the faith awakening journey at home, using the tools provided. Both parents and children can grow together in their faith!



A PROGRAM THAT SUITS CHILDREN 5 YEARS OLD AND LESS

You may wonder how the same activity can reach children from 1 to 5 years of age.

It is important to understand that this program is not first and foremost to acquire knowledge but rather to create a place where families can come to have fun, bond and progressively discover their faith.



Little Hearts Playgroup is meant to reach the heart first and then the head! Of course children will learn certain concepts but our main objective is to help them establish a loving relationship with God through all that they encounter in their daily lives.



That is why the same topic can be presented to a 2, 3, 4 or 5 year old. Each one will get from it something different, depending on his age and development. As adults, we can relate to this as we can hear the same Gospel message proclaimed a hundred times and be touched differently each time.



In fact, only the five minute mini-catechesis and the arts and crafts are directly aimed at the 3 year olds and older, although the little ones love them too! As for the rest, children of all ages appreciate the play time, the songs and especially being with their parents. This program pleases and profits the whole family!

The Program's Major Strengths

THEMES CLOSE TO FAMILIES PRESENTED OVER A THREE YEAR CYCLE

Little Hearts Playgroup presents a wide variety of themes, all closely related to the present day needs and preoccupations of families. The 60 themes proposed are spread over a three-year cycle and are varied enough to avoid repetitiveness and routine for families that follow the program over a number of years.



A PROGRAM WHERE FAMILIES CAN JOIN IN ANYTIME

The three years of the Little Hearts Playgroup program forms a diversified and coherent ensemble that is meant to instill in the parent’s and in the child's heart:


  1. The certainty that God exists and loves them
  2. The desire to enter into a personal relationship with Jesus in dialogue/prayer
  3. The wish to act with love, just like Jesus, and with Him

Families can join anytime during the three-year cycle, no matter where the parish group is at. The activity leaders therefore only have to care for one group, unless too many families join the program.



A SIMPLE AND INVITING VOCABULARY

The themes are presented in a vocabulary that is easy to understand. Parents learn how to speak about God to their child in a simple language, adapted to the child's comprehension. They soon realize how easy and fun it is to talk about faith.



ARTS AND CRAFTS THAT EVANGELIZE

Little Hearts Playgroup is often the first activity that small children have ever participated in. This instills great interest and pride within the family that bears much fruit. Families appreciate the arts and crafts activity, always in line with the pastoral themes, as well as the documentation provided, which permits parents to talk about God at home.



A PARENTS' LEAFLET DESIGNED TO HELP WITH FAITH AWAKENING AT HOME

The Parents' Leaflet is designed to allow families to continue the faith awakening program at home. It encourages and motivates them to become their children's faith educators. Each leaflet contains the catechesis that was given to the children plus a text that motivates the parents to deepen their faith.

The Positive Outcome of Little Hearts Playgroup

Successfully launched in its original French version La P’tite Pasto, by over 125 Christian communities in 18 dioceses across the province of Québec, this parent-child activity reaches families in their everyday life and helps them discover the importance of faith at the heart of each day. Throughout the years, families from a variety of backgrounds have enjoyed this program.



Their experience shows that:

  • The parent-child activity concept, which largely focuses on songs, games and crafts, truly appeals to young families;
  • The proposed themes and activities definitely answer the needs and interests of little ones and their parents;
  • Many lapsed Catholics register for Little Hearts Playgroup; they rediscover their faith and appreciate the fact that Christian values are introduced gradually, with much respect, and with a new and contemporary language;
  • The majority of families who register for Little Hearts Playgroup keep coming regularly and for many years, until their youngest child is too old to attend;
  • Little Hearts Playgroup has allowed many people to give place and meaning to faith it their lives, and has encouraged the creation of trusting relationships between families and the pastoral team;
  • Families who have been involved with Little Hearts Playgroup later register their children for Christian Initiation with more conviction and enthusiasm;
  • Little Hearts Playgroup families bond with each other and form a "community": parents and children are happy to share in other activities;
  • The help given by seniors and teenagers to prepare and facilitate this activity has encouraged intergenerational bonding in many communities.

This program not only helps families to gently re-contact Christ Jesus and His message of love, but it also offers them a new space where they can meet and journey together. Many witness to the fact that Little Hearts Playgroup is a haven of peace and humanization for them.



The success of Little Hearts Playgroup in French Canada is a sign of hope: our Church is vibrant and alive! One can only rejoice at the sight of all these families who gather on a regular basis to share the joy of knowing God, of praying in simple words and of understanding how to live as Christians in their daily lives.