Prince Albert Regional KidsFirst gets funding boost from provincial and federal governments

Prince Albert Regional KidsFirst Facebook photo A photo from a Prince Albert Regional KidsFirst Parents & Tots workshop last week in Birch Hills.

Families in rural Saskatchewan with young children will have access to further mobile early learning opportunities thanks to an additional $405,000 investment from the Governments of Saskatchewan and Canada.

The funding includes an increase for Prince Albert Regional KidsFirst. Director of Prince Albert Early Childhood Intervention Program (ECIP) Lauren Helstrip, which has KidsFirst Regional Prince Albert under their umbrella, said the investment will provide significant advantages.

“This is a huge boost to our program,” Helstrip said. “Before, we were servicing the same amount of area but with very little resources. We had to fundraise and pinch pennies as much as we could. Now at least we can get out there.”

Helstrip said they’ve secured the services of someone who has superior knowledge in the early learning field as well. This funding boost will help ensure their programs get out into the rural areas.

“It makes a huge difference to the type of programming that you can put out there,” Helstrip said.

Funding for KidsFirst Regional programming amounted to $823,500 in 2022-23. This additional investment increases the total program funding to $1.2 million.

KidsFirst Regional travels to communities across the province bringing unique learning opportunities to children up to age five, with programs such as take-home literacy kits, story walks and pop-up preschool events.

“We are just really grateful for the huge boost,” Helstrip said. “I honestly wasn’t expecting something like this. For the Ministry to have recognized that these little programs are making a difference out there in the community, it’s quite humbling.”

There are 10 Kids First Regional areas across the province that received funding; the Prince Albert area, Moose Jaw-Assiniboia area, Kindersley area, Tisdale area, Saskatoon area, Southwest area, Regina area, Yorkton area and the Southeast area all received $40,000. Lloydminster-Meadow Lake-the Battlefords received $45,000 as they service a larger area.

“Providing KidsFirst Regional with more funding will ensure that regardless of where children live, they can have access to high quality early learning opportunities,” Education Minister Dustin Duncan said in a press release.

“The variety of programs KidsFirst Regional offers will continue to support early childhood development, school readiness goals and positive social engagement in communities across Saskatchewan.”

KidsFirst Regional Community Developers work collaboratively with local partners and families such as public health, Early Childhood Intervention Program (ECIP), family resource centres and libraries within smaller urban and rural communities. They provide activities, events and access to information for families with children up to the age of five aimed at improving creativity and imagination, and creating teachable moments.

“It’s an early years mobile learning unit that goes around into communities and our lady, who we have employed in this position, she runs workshops for parents on pretty much all of the developmental areas of early childhood development,” Helstrip explained. “She will run workshops on growth motor skills or she will engage with parents in why storytelling is important or reading to your children. We have got a new program coming that she is presenting now, it’s going to be all about potty training your child.”

They serve communities as far away as Montreal Lake on one side and James Smith and Kinistino on the other side, and down to Rosthern, Big River and Debden.

“We were pinching pennies on traveling costs as well and just the fact that we have got this extra little boost makes it a lot easier for us to access those areas,” Helstrip said.

Last year, KidsFirst Regional supported almost 16,000 parents and young children in 343 communities. The program also distributed 8,600 early learning kits and backpacks across the province which included activities to enhance all five elements of child development including linguistic, social-emotional, cognitive, fine and gross motor skills.

“Every child deserves the best start in life,” Canada’s Minister of Families, Children and Social Development, Karina Gould, said. “The additional funding to KidsFirst programs will help ensure that all families in Saskatchewan have access to high-quality, affordable, flexible and inclusive early learning opportunities no matter where they live.”
To find a KidsFirst Regional mobile early learning opportunity near you visit

This increase of $405,000 in funding is being provided through the Canada-Saskatchewan Bi-Lateral Early Learning and Child Care Agreement 2021-2026.

The Canada-Saskatchewan Bilateral Early Learning and Child Care Agreement was signed on August 13, 2021, for the purposes of enhancing the quality of Early Years Family Resource Centres, improving access to early learning programming in rural and small cities and to implement a risk-based compliance monitoring system for child care for the period April 1, 2022 to March 31, 2023.