Saturday, July 7, 2012

Bike Life: Budding Children's Garden & Daycare

Lawrence making pizza at Buddings
I can't remember where I heard about Budding Children's Garden & Daycare, possibly on Vancouver Mom, maybe through word of mouth, but I know it was a while ago. As I've been getting more freelance writing work than I can do during Sprout's naps & evenings, I've found it necessary to find flexible childcare, so I signed Sprout up at Buddings.

How Buddings Works
Buddings isn't your average daycare--it works a bit more like Modo, the car sharing cooperative. You sign up, then book time online on an hour-by-hour basis as needed, as little as an hour in advance. Because of the way licensing works for daycares, the maximum you can book is 40 hours a month. It's not a solution if you need regular full-time child care, but for part-time workers or work-at-home freelancers like me, it's perfect. Or for moms who just need a break sometimes! I could see it being useful as a backup for regular childcare too.

About Buddings' Space
Centrally located at 950 West Broadway near Oak (just a half block off the 10th Avenue Bike Route), Buddings is easy to get to. The space is open & bright with a variety of great toys for toddlers to preschoolers. A colourful map of Canada rug decorates the area near the lentil table (like a sand box but no dust!) & the aquarium. Buddings organizes activities with a different theme each weekday, featuring arts & crafts, science experiments as well as lots of make-believe. July's themes are: Mondays Maple Leaf Prints, Tuesdays Pearly Clay, Wednesdays Super Heros, Thursdays Playing Elevator & Fridays Music & Markers.

Buddings gets bonus points from me because they are a bike-friendly business, which is why I'm featuring them on this edition of Bike Life. The following is an email interview with Talia Erickson of Buddings.

Can you tell me a bit about the Buddings staff?
With the kids coming and going, and the schedules changing all the time, the special relationships that each child has with the teachers is what gives Buddings the consistency that kids thrive on. Jenny Bachhuber is our Daycare Supervisor, with 6 years of experience as an Early Childhood Educator. Lawrence Erickson is our educator with musical inclinations, and while I do fill in on the floor, playing games and being silly, my other job is to handle the bookkeeping, admissions, and accounts. We all ride bikes for transportation, live in East Van, and love the variety that everyday at Buddings provides.

The Buddings crew: Jenny, Talia & Lawrence (Benson in the basket)
Seeing you work with the kids at the daycare, it's obvious that you, Lawrence & Jenny love children. But what's the story behind Buddings? Why did you decide to open your own centre?

Buddings has the most common start-up origin story: we were looking for something that didn't exist, so decided to open it ourselves. I was self-employed, with a flexible/irregular schedule, and Lawrence was in school, home by 3:00. His son lives with the mother most of the time, so we certainly didn't need full-time care, but our schedules were all over the place.

My work had been in website maintenance and development and I was familiar with the systems that would be necessary to make our idea work. It was more like extending web-based booking to childcare, than creating a new system entirely.

What have you done to make Buddings bike-friendly?

We encouraged our building manager to install a bike rack, which is used by more than just our customers, and have a bike pump and repair kit. We invite families to leave their trailers and bike accessories with us so they're not hampered with the extra gear and we participate with Bike to Work Week! This Spring, Buddings came in 33rd for businesses under 11 employees, out of 250!

Have you got any advice for other businesses regarding making themselves bike-friendly?

Take it one step at a time, and keep in mind that facilities that encourage cycling will save you money. Whether it's replacing one car parking spot with space for 8 bikes, installing a shower so staff feel comfortable riding, or offering incentives for sustainable transportation. There are programs so you don't have to bear all the costs, but more importantly, absenteeism decreases, and when employees feel supported, satisfaction goes way way up.

Any advice for parents who are thinking of biking with their toddlers or older kids?

It's so fun! Okay, so it is a bit of work and prep, especially if you're going to commute, but it's so worth it. It's time you can share with them, a good example to set of active living, and sustainable transportation. Most importantly, your kids will love it.

Why do you bike to work & how long have you been doing so?

I worked for 4 years with Bike to Work Week, starting in 2008, 5 months after I arrived in Vancouver. I lived so close to our office, and was surrounded by such dedicated cyclists and advocates, who biked in everyday from the North Shore, and Richmond, that I just couldn't not ride. That first winter was easier than I thought it would be, and it got me started biking everywhere. Once I realized how easy and fun it was, I practically haven't travelled any other way since.

What are the advantages to biking to work for you?

Saving money, getting exercise, being active, getting fresh air, connecting with my neighbours, being part of the city scape, rock star parking wherever I go, passing traffic jams, ringing my bell, talking to people... Generally, it makes me happy.

How about the disadvantages?

Getting wet.

How many kilometres do you think you put on your bike in a year?

Not as many as you'd think. With 25km in commutes per week, plus weekend riding, and other trips and errands, I'd say less than 2,000km.

What kind of bike do you ride?

A Brodie Ocho, which I would recommend to absolutely anyone looking for a great get-where-you're-going bike. Disk brakes and an internally geared hub are my favourite things ever.

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