From Resources

Child Development Support in New West

Concerned about your child’s development? New West has many resources.

If a child is born healthy, the future seems limitless. But for some of us, the dream of sports trophies, academic achievements and a large group of friends fades as we slowly come to see that something just isn’t right.

Where can you turn if your child is not hitting important milestones, showing odd behaviour or giving you other reasons to worry about his or her development? If you’re in New West then you’re in luck. There are many places with information, support and help.
Photo by Patrick Hajzler, used via a Creative Commons license.

If you’re not sure whether there’s a reason for concern

Sometimes, especially if you’re a first-time parent, it can be hard to know how your child is doing in relation to his or her peers. If, for example, your daughter isn’t walking at 14 months, is that normal?

The free drop-in programs for the under-5 crowd at New Westminster Family Place or Strong Start can help. The staff is well versed in child development and you’ll get an opportunity to meet other families with kids who are the same age to give you an idea of how your child is doing in comparison.

Your family doctor can be a great source of information about child development and can give a referral to a pediatrician or other services if needed.

The public health nurses at the Public Health Unit are also a great resource. They often have more time to discuss your concerns than a family doctor, so if you’re there for immunizations, it’s a great opportunity to discuss any concerns you have.

Important note: nobody is ever going to know more about your child than you. If your gut tells you that there’s something to be concerned about, it’s important that you follow up, even if health professionals are telling you that everything is fine.

If there’s a reason for concern

If you know that there are concerns that need to be addressed, the New Westminster Children’s Centre is your one-stop destination for getting the help you need. Located at 811 Royal Ave, they take referrals not just from medical professionals (like your doctor or public health nurse), but from parents as well.

Call them at 604.521.8078 local 318 and ask for either Infant Development (0-3 years) or Supported Child Development (3+ years). They will help you determine if your child meets the criteria to be eligible for services.

If your family is added to the caseload, a consultant will meet you at your home to discuss your concerns in detail. They have all of tools and knowledge to conduct an in-depth assessment, can suggest activities to help your child catch up and can refer you to therapies that may be appropriate, including speech therapy, occupational therapy and physical therapy.

New West residents with a First Nations background can also contact the Spirit of the Children Society. It provides the services that the NWCC does, but with special support and resources for First Nations families.

Bio: Linda is a New West mom with two boys. Her older son has Autism and her younger son is undiagnosed with developmental delays. You can read more about her personal experience with looking for help here. You can connect with Linda on Twitter.

Common Music Lesson Questions Answered

Please enjoy these answers to a handful of common questions I hear as a piano & music teacher from parents & adult students curious about music lessons… 


Q. What about my 3 year old? 

A. Everyone believes their 3 year old is a genius (mine certainly is 🙂 There are always exceptions of course, but generally private music instrument lessons are best waited until recommended ages found in my Parent Guide. However, most music teachers are happy to give a short assessment of your child and will give recommendations for appropriate instruments and how much longer (if needed) to wait before starting on an instrument.

Q. What are most teachers looking for in music instrument readiness (regardless of instrument)? 

A. Universal of all instruments; Recognition of letters A-G and basic numbers 1-4 (no need to be writing or reading yet, however writing is preferred to have begun), Left and Right hand distinction, a particular level of fine motor skills is expected depending on the instrument (can they touch each of their fingers individually to the thumb? do up a button?), ability to listen, respond and follow instruction, genuine interest in music (do they like to sing or dance?).

Q. How do you know if it is the right instrument? 

A. Please see our Parents Guide. Generally if they meet the minimum age, show an interest and meet any physical requirements they are good to begin. To note: Sometimes, the minimum recommended age is still too young for the particular child (could be for any number of reasons such as maturity, behaviour, physical size, etc). If you are curious if it is a good time for your child but are not sure, it never hurts to get a professional music teacher to assess them and give their opinion.

Q. My child has been told to wait to start private music study – what should we do in the meantime? 

A. Parent led singing and musical activities at home are the number 1 best thing. Sing, sing, sing, dance and play music of all kinds in the house, oh and sing. Having small musical instruments around the house mixed in with their toys – egg shakers, maracas, keyboards, xylophones, recorders, drums and more encourage your son or daughter to make up songs as a play activity or jam along with the radio – aiding natural rhythmic and melodic development in a fun way. General Group Music Lessons are also instrumental in preparing children for school readiness – learning to be a part of a group, following direction and more. There are many different systems for Group Music Lessons, Suzuki, Kodaly, Kindermusik, Music Together, to name a few. We love our Music Kids Club – it is a perfect bridge to instrument learning and a wonderful supplement music program for those entering or in preschool or kindergarten.

Q. My child has a disability, can they still take lessons? 

A. Yes, most definitely. Music teachers (speaking at least of our studio) are generally familiar with working with children of different abilities, will often have special training or experience with different abilities such as blindness, autism, arthritis, speech impediments, hearing loss, MS, and more. Music training can be both therapeutic and highly successful with people of any ability, creating wonderful musicians, performers and teachers.

Q. What about group instrument lessons? 

A. Group Piano, Voice or Guitar lessons can be a wonderful and cost effective way to begin an instrument. However after the fundamental basics are learnt, immediate entry into Private Lessons is necessary as long term group classes can no longer keep stride with all learning styles, learning speeds and individual development and should not replace private study. Instead I reccomend Individualized Instruction where the student can grow at their own pace in private lessons and then bring their skills to activities such as Choirs, Bands, Ear Training Classes and Performance Groups as they provide excellent training and social elements. Music is meant to be played and performed in community after all 🙂

Q. My son is 6 and wants to learn piano but I still don’t think he’s ready for lessons yet. Should I still put him in? 

A. No. Wait until you think he is ready. Parents know best, if you have reason to believe he wouldn’t do as well now as in a year or 6 months, there is no need to rush it.

Q. Is it ever too late? 

A. No, not at all. Do not worry – starting piano at 7 instead of 4, or 30 instead of 4, or 74 instead of 4, is not a problem. The most important factor to success in music is starting and persisting, regardless of age. 


Do you have a music q? You can reach me at or

Enjoy music!


-Vashti Fairbairn is a local New West music and piano teacher, wife, mother, owner of Music Box New Westminster’s Music Academy at the River Market & a new Second location to serve you at 630 Carnarvon. You can learn more about raising your children musically at

Why play the Piano first? Why not the Flute? A parents guide to Private Music Lessons

Why consider some instruments at an earlier age over others? How does one assess if it is the right instrument?


Piano is the generally the most popular and successful instrument to start with from a young age. Most children can successfully begin at age 4 (this was me many years ago!) or 5. Occasionally, some children can begin as young as age 3.5 (lessons for ages 3-5 year olds generally incorporate a number of off the piano activities to reinforce piano skills in new and interesting ways. Instruments, colouring and movement may be incorporated depending on the teacher and needs of student). Skills to have mastered; Left/Right hands, recognize letters A-G (no need to be reading yet though), strong fingers with a high level of finger independence (how would you evaluate their fine motor skills? can they do up a button or zipper yet?). Piano is a great foundation for all instrument study, music reading is transferable to any instrument, the finger strength, rhythm and theory skills that piano study builds alone are irreplaceable.


Ukulele is a wonderful instrument for young children. Generally speaking, this instrument is best started at age 5 and can sometimes be started as early as age 4. Skills they should have mastered; Left/Right hands, be able to recognize letters A-G. Strong fingers, with good finger independence (though not as important as it is in Piano). Ukulele is also a wonderful instrument for children who would eventually like to move to Guitar. Do you have a child who loves to sing but not yet ready for voice lessons? Children can learn (mostly from example) to sing and accompany themselves at a young age. Take for example my daughter *gushing mother* who is 3.5, she is not ready for voice lessons, but I am considering placing her in Ukulele lessons this Fall so she can have more fun singing along with herself 🙂


Guitar is a great instrument to begin at age 6 or 7, (to note for petite children – only with the right sized guitar – please speak to an instructor about the best size for your sized child). At this age it is best to start on an acoustic guitar with nylon strings, then transitioning into steel strings or electric guitar if desired. Children must have strong fingers (much stronger than Ukulele to fret the notes) and be comfortable with developing calluses.

Flute or Clarinet

Flute is a wonderful great first wind instrument, best started at age 8. Children need time to develop lung capacity and grow their little bodies (holding instruments away from your body for extended periods of time is tiring!) so no earlier is recommended. A wonderful precursor to the flute or clarinet however is the Recorder, which is great to begin at age 6.


The Violin can be very successful at age 5 if the child shows an interest. Unlike the piano, the violin is not as initially gratifying to listen to 😉 However, this beautiful instrument is great for developing a keen sense of pitch and heightened listening as one must be diligent on each sound made being in tune. Fine motor skills must be well developed here for a small fingerboard, good wrist flexibility for careful bowing and acknowledgment that sometimes arms will get tired from holding the instrument. Thankfully violins come in a large assortment of sizes, all the way down to 1/16th of the original size, be sure your child is fitted properly and always playing the correct size. The violin is also a great precursor to the cello, which is best started at age 8 or 9.


Voice lessons are best started at age 8. Much like the Flute and Clarinet, time is needed to develop lung capacity and grow! However, lessons can sometimes be started as early as 6 years old with the right teacher who takes care to guide the voice gently with repertoire and technique that is age, voice maturity and range appropriate. Voice training has many benefits, but less known to point out are – aiding in speech impediments, lisps, dealing with a new retainer or braces and finding a full voice for speech. To note – voice lessons are a wonderful compliment to piano or guitar learning where one can eventually learn to accompany themselves while singing and can provide a sound theoretical base for the voice.


Private drum lessons at age 8 are great if there is strong interest shown. Aptitude for rhythm can be indicated very early on in life (perhaps a gift of a toy drum they love to sing and play with?) and generally speaking you may be able to tell if your child is naturally rhythmic much earlier than 8 years old. Things to look for – strong coordination, beating beats on the kitchen table, love of dance, can clap (or tap, or beat on the table, etc) a steady beat, can clap back accurately what you clap, can clap along in time with music. However, the beauty of music training is – these things we look for to see if there is a natural tonal or rhythmic ability with any instrument – can all be developed with desire & study! Hooray!

-Vashti Fairbairn is a local New West music and piano teacher, owner of Music Box New Westminster’s Music Academy at the New Westminster River Market & a new Second location to serve you at 630 Carnarvon. You can learn more about raising your children musically at

How to prepare a (messy!) home for showings and open houses

A client asked me for advice the other day on dealing with the tornado her three children leave behind in their home, and how it may affect their sale. Unless you can list your home and immediately go on vacation for a few weeks there is no real solution. Try as you may, when your potential buyer opens your kid’s closet something is going to fall out. Don’t sweat it.  We all have children and even the fussiest of buyers understands the impossible task of cleaning up after them for every showing. Odds are, they are going through the same thing with their current home. Besides, buyers get very suspicious if a home looks way too good for a family of five and a dog to actually be living there! Not kidding. So, don’t beat yourself up over the middle child’s pet tarantula or your daughter’s pile of dirty clothes on the floor. A single magnet on the fridge that says….”teenagers live here” should suffice nicely.

5-2-1-0: the cheat code for keeping kids healthy


By Linda M. Tobias

If you haven’t heard of 5-2-1-0, you soon will. It’s an evidence-based message promoting four simple guidelines for raising healthy children. Fraser Health New Westminster, School District 40 and a variety of other government & social organizations are embracing the philosophy to ensure that New West kids thrive. The most important way to affect a child’s life though is at home. So, are you ready to learn about the four easy steps to keeping your child healthy?

5 (or more) servings of vegetables or fruits every day

We’re told that the meals and snacks we give our kids should follow Canada’s Food Guide, but busy schedules, fussy eaters and dietary restrictions can make this tricky. If you’re having a hard time sticking to all the guidelines, making sure that your child has five servings of fruits or vegetables every day is a great place to start. The great thing about fruits and veggies is that they can be eaten raw as a snack, steamed/grilled as a side, or hidden in some of your kids’ favorite meals. A quick Google will give you lots of ideas on how to make veggies fun; here’s one example. For more tips on how to encourage healthy eating to your child, click here.

2 hours of screen time

Whether it’s a favorite TV show, video game or iPad app, screen time can be hard to avoid. And that’s not all bad. After all, it’s a great way to keep kids occupied while you get things done and much of the content for kids is educational. But two hours each day is all that a developing child needs. The rest of the time should be spent exploring the world around them. Want to learn more about the research and recommendations regarding screen time for the under three crowd? Click here.

1 hour of activity

Getting kids active for one hour per day can seem challenging. After all, here in Vancouver, it rains more often than not, and winter doesn’t leave many daylight hours outside of school. But our city makes it easy. Check out the City of New Westminster website for safest walking routes to local schools. Walking to school can be a great way to start your day by being active. Meanwhile, Parks, Culture & Recreation offers a wide variety of programs, including drop-in activities. Check out their Active Living Guide and Affordable Brochure (for low-cost and free activities) online. And you can find lots of fun activities like this to do at home when you’re not up to venturing out. To learn more about Canada’s guidelines on physical activity, click here.

0 drinks with added sugar

Wait does that mean no chocolate milk or Kool Aid… ever?! No, of course not. Sugary drinks can be a great occasional treat, but the idea here is that we use them in moderation and encourage our children to rely on water to quench their thirst. Not only does that make for healthier kids, but it saves you money too. Metro Vancouver has some of the world’s best tap water and it’s free!

To learn more about 5-2-1-0, click here.

Kids New West is pleased to welcome Linda Tobias, a New West mom, writer, and editor. Read more of Linda Tobias’ writing at: