Medicine Hat

Medicine Hat Early Childhood Coalition

Girls play at a Roving Gym in Medicine Hat.
​​​​Every Friday between 6:30 and 8:30 pm during the winter months, otherwise unused spaces in ​​​​Medicine Hat are open for young children and their families to play. The Medicine Hat Early Childhood Coalition began organizing ‘roving gyms’ in January 2013 after a parent survey indicated that there was a lack of indoor play space available for young children during the long winter season. 
The coalition was able to secure play space in school gyms, day cares and churches around the city. To ensure that as many families as possible are able to enjoy the play spaces, the ‘gyms’ are rotated among different locations every week. The gyms ― supervised by coalition members and kinesiology students from Medicine Hat College ― have been hugely successful, attracting up to 90 participants, including grandparents, parents, young children and older siblings, on any given night.

Community at a glance

Medicine Hat, a city of 61,000 in southeastern Alberta, acts as the service centre for much of southeastern Alberta, as well as southwestern Saskatchewan. The gas industry, agriculture and manufacturing are all important industries.  The city is laid out on the banks of the South Saskatchewan River, down into a valley and across a number of coulees. Steep hills and coulees define communities and influence how people access services.
Medicine Hat offers many activities, events and programs for families and children. The city’s website lists a wealth of recreational resources, including 92 kilometers of hiking/biking trails, 250 hectares of parks, six golf courses, three indoor and four outdoor pools, six indoor ice arenas and many outdoor sports fields. 

EDI baseline results

Twenty-nine per cent of kindergarten-aged children in Medicine Hat are experiencing great difficulty in one or more areas of development, which is about the provincial level. Results in subcommunities rangeda great deal. 

Community and coalition strengths

  • The coalition has a diverse membership that includes representatives from the school district, health services, immigration services, women’s shelter and Parent Link Centre.
  • Information sharing and collaboration between agencies is facilitated through an e-mail distribution list managed by the coalition.
  • Coalition members attend community events and solicit input from parents on what is needed in the community and how the coalition can contribute to addressing these needs.
  • The community has many resources for children and families, including the Medicine Hat Family Leisure Centre, a 90,000-square-foot multipurpose facility that includes an aquatic centre and ice rink.

Community and coalition challenges

  • Getting parents involved with the coalition has been difficult.
  • Young families feel that their needs ―and early childhood development in general ― are overshadowed by the needs of an aging population when it comes to city planning and policy making.
  • Services are spread out and streets are steep, which makes it difficult to access services without a vehicle. 


We encourage city officials to look through a children’s lens when they are thinking about things that should happen in the community. We have to remember our little citizens, too.
Jennifer Usher, coalition chair

Coalition actions  

  • To promote collaboration, coalition meetings start off with an update from agencies on what they are doing.
  • Roving Gyms were organized to provide families with a no cost, indoor space for children to engage in free play.
  • A letter was sent to newly elected city councillors (in the fall of 2013) to let them know about the coalition and encourage them to make young children and families a priority in their decision making.  
  • The coalition has partnered with parent groups to communicate information about early childhood development on Facebook. 
  • The coalition participates in the family flu clinic, Fluapalooza,  organized by Alberta Health Services  in the fall. After getting their flu shot, children are able to visit a special play area.  Parents are provided with information about the coalition’s activities and asked for their input into what the coalition should be doing. 
  • Elementary school children were involved in an art project (in the spring of 2012) that asked them to respond to the following questions: “What is community?” “What does a child need to feel loved?” Forty children in two after-school programs participated.
  • The coalition has partnered with the Lifelong Education and Resource Network to bring the ‘C.O.W.’ (classroom on wheels) bus to Medicine Hat. The C.O.W. program trains facilitators to promote family literacy in fun ways with parents and children.

Additional information

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Updated: April 28, 2014