Talk to Me, Play with Me, Carry Me
Date posted: April 6, 2018
Today we are pleased to welcome Kailey Erickson, the Literacy Outreach Coordinator in Langley, as our guest blogger.
“Talk to Me, Play with Me, Carry Me – I appreciate the time you take with me now because what I learn and feel sets me on my path”
As a Literacy Outreach Coordinator, I believe an important part of my work is building community connections. Strong connections with other organizations and people in the community help me be a more effective literacy coordinator, as it gives me a better idea of what programs and services exist in the community and how I can work with agencies and individuals to develop literacy across our community. When asked to participate in the newly formed Infant Mental Health Collaborative, initially I was unsure if I would be a useful member of the table – I thought ‘well I don’t offer any literacy programs for babies, so I don’t think I would be able to contribute very much to this initiative, even though I find the topic interesting.’ However, once I was part of the table and we started working on the initiative, and developed our core message to promote infant mental health, “Talk to Me, Play with Me, Carry Me”, I realized the work connected directly with early literacy for children and infants and tied into our family literacy goals in our District Literacy Plan. You can read below more about our work at the Infant Mental Health Collaborative and what we achieved.
The focus of Talk to Me, Play with Me, Carry Me – #mywellbeingstartswithyou is to increase parents’ and caregivers’ awareness of the importance that simple every day interactions can have on the well being and mental health of their baby.
Our focus in Langley on infant mental health came out of a 2016 multi-day forum hosted by the Infant Mental Health Promotion team from Toronto Sick Kids Hospital. Service providers in the community came together to learn about why infant mental health was so important and to look at the strengths, gaps and needs of our community. From this we knew Infant Mental Health needed to be a priority in our early childhood development work. Soon after we formed an Infant Mental Health Collaborative with representatives from early childhood development organizations, family resource programs, Public Health, libraries, School District, Early Years Centre and other partners, so we could come up with ways to promote the message of infant mental health to Langley organizations working with infants, as well as families with new babies.
To achieve this, we decided that rather than focus on all the data and statistics, it would be more impactful to distill everything into a very simple message shared from an infant’s perspective: Talk to Me, Play with Me, Carry Me.
Together with the BC Pediatric Society, we developed a poster campaign to spread this message and the posters were posted throughout the community including doctors’ offices, community centres, libraries, and family resource programs.
A member of the table knew that a local chiropractic office gave away baby bibs with their logo on the bib and this sparked an idea: what if instead of just posters, we gave away free baby bibs with our message of infant mental health (Talk to me, Play with me, Carry me) printed on them? Parents always need baby bibs and every time they looked at their baby wearing this bib they would be reminded of the message, and other parents would see the message and ask about, creating conversation around the topic and making the families into infant mental health champions out in the community.
At the table we were concerned that that there may be fears from families about the perceived stigma around the mental health of babies. We consulted with a focus group made up of parents from different Langley programs and after talking them about the bibs and messages, the families let us know “if you are talking about mental health, then say mental health!” So in the end while we decided to use a more holistic message of #mywellbeingstartswithyou on the wearable bibs, we also designed an educational bib card to be attached to each bib – a resource that outlines what infant mental health is and how you can help develop and support your baby’s mental health.
At this point we were feeling proud of all the conversations and materials we had produced, and then it got even more exciting: thanks to additional funding from the Ministry of Child and Family Development, we were able to create and produce a short video about our message of “Talk to Me, Play with Me, Carry Me. The video is shot from the perspective of a child and shows the “incorrect” behaviour in black and white and the correct behaviour in colour (i.e. Dad playing on the computer while baby sits at his feet looking for attention versus Dad on the ground at the baby’s level, playing together).
All community partners got behind this promotional campaign and with their support in sharing the message on social media, the video had 12,000 views in the first week alone, reaching across Canada, into the States and Europe. Everything we share on social media about the topic of infant mental health is linked with #mywellbeingstartswithyou which helps us track the spread of the work and provides an online database for to see all the different resources and supports shared under the hashtag.
Finally, our busy and productive year of work around infant mental health will culminate this May with our first annual Langley Baby Day event. Hosted by the Langley School District #35, the event will connect families with babies born in 2017 and 2018 with specific programs, resources and experts that can help them promote their baby’s well being around each of the 3 core areas: Talk to Me, Play with Me, Carry Me.
Sharing the message through multiple mediums such as posters, free baby bibs, educational cards, events, and social media has helped our message spread farther than we ever imagined. We are hopeful for the impact this may have on babies in our community, across BC and even across Canada, as families learn about the importance that simple every day interactions can have on the well being and mental health of their baby.
The campaign has support from the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), the BC Pediatric Society and the Infant Mental Health Promotion (IMPH) team based out of Toronto Sick Kids Hospital. Thank you to the Ministry of Child and Family Development for providing the funding for our project.