Parent-Child Mother Goose Program

The Parent Child Mother Goose Program fosters parent-child bonding, literacy and healthy parenting through a rich oral language experience in an emotionally supportive environment that enhances the skills and confidence of parents and the social and cognitive brain development of babies and toddlers at the most critical time of their lives.

Our Impact Why We Exist

The Parent-Child Mother Goose Program® was created in 1986 at the request of a social worker from Children’s Aid Toronto who was in despair at his inability to intervene in families suffering generations of dysfunction. Not only did the mothers learn how to bond with their babies, they also enjoyed coming! They felt neither patronized or pathologized.

At the same time, the mothers learned how to give their babies’ brains the right kind of stimulation during the most important development period of their entire lives, when the return on investment is the greatest. 

If vulnerable, well-meaning parents struggle or fail to emotionally bond or actively communicate with their babies, the parent-child relationships and the children’s futures can be seriously compromised. The Parent-Child Mother Goose Program intervenes with an exuberant, interactive program in which families learn to share the power and pleasure of oral rhymes, songs, and stories.

The research-backed approach is so simple and enjoyable that parents effortlessly enhance their skills and confidence, while their children acquire a lifelong foundation for emotional, physical, and cognitive health.

To foster replication of the program, PCMG also offers program teacher training and certification.

(Thanks to our teacher training, there are now PCMG programs all over Canada and in U.S., Iran, and Australia.)

Our Story What We Do

Studies on the vital role of caregivers in early brain development, such as those by Dr. Stuart Shanker, Distinguished Research Professor of Philosophy and Psychology at York University, demonstrate the crucial importance of the most basic parent-child interactions for healthy early child development.[1] Dr. Shanker’s studies confirm what decades of observation had indicated[2]: that all of a baby’s experiences will mould its brain and develop neural connections, and most of these experiences are provided by the primary caregiver. The baby learns through the caregiver’s choice of words, tone of voice, gestures, and facial expressions. If the caregiver does not hold and cuddle the baby or does not communicate expressively, it ”affects the long-term health and well-being of children and of entire populations.[3]

Similarly, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) states that the peaks in a child’s brain development – for literacy, numeracy, social skills and emotional control – all occur from ages one to three and that the parents’ role is key. The changes to a child’s brain during this period are virtually irreversible.[4] Nobel laureate economist James Heckman confirms that investment in early childhood reduces crime, health care costs, and education costs at a return rate of 10% per year.[5]

The challenge then is to offer a program that models and reinforces parent-child interactions that will promote healthy child brain development during the crucial first 1000 days. This is exactly what the Parent-Child Mother Goose Program does (please see full program outline below).

The additional challenge is making sure that the program is accessible, culturally sensitive and enjoyable. Otherwise no one will come. Mother Goose Programs are always free and TTC is provided if necessary. All cultures are embraced: we welcome rhymes and stories from participants’ cultures of origin and offer customized (e.g., Aboriginal, American Sign Language) or bilingual (e.g., Somali, French) programs. Finally, because the program is highly interactive and based on rhyme, story and song, it is truly enchanting. Participants enjoy themselves and do not feel in any way lectured to, preached to, or pathologized.

[1] The Science of Early Child Development 2nd Edition (2008) created by Red River College in partnership with the Atkinson Centre for Society and Child Development at Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE), University of Toronto

[2] E.g., in 1958 psychologist Harry Harlow, in experiments depriving rhesus monkeys of their mothers, showed that the monkeys would cling to a cloth-covered frame as long as possible in preference to a bare wire frame even though the latter provided milk. Unfortunately the presence of the cloth-covered frame could not prevent severe permanent damage to the monkeys’ brains and behavior..

[4]Investing in high-quality early childhood education and care”, Publication of Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development


Our Programs How We Do It

There is one fundamental PCMG program that can adapt to diverse languages and cultures. It has been refined over almost 30 years based on research and the frontline experience of PCMG teachers. The program is collaborative and culturally sensitive, always welcoming new rhymes, stories and songs from participants. Last year 37 different languages were represented in our programs.

PCMG itself currently delivers seven programs in Toronto. We call these our core programs. All are in neighbourhoods of greatest need and give priority to families at greatest risk.

·         Elmbank Community Centre and Albion Library near Martingrove and Finch (infant program)

·         Elmbank Community Centre near Martingrove and Finch (toddler program)

·         Parkdale Community Health Centre

·         LAMP Community Health Centre in the Lakeshore area

·         Malvern Library in Scarborough

·         Toronto Community Housing in Rexdale (Somali program)

·         Native Child and Family Services Toronto (Aboriginal program) on College St.


  • Families living in high risk situations with babies and young children share rhymes, songs and stories
  • Families receive a healthy snack
  • Families share rhymes and stories from their first language or culture
  • Participants socialize, make friends and offer each other support
  • Program teachers debrief and plan for the following week
  • Program teachers make reminder calls to participants once a week
  • New teachers learn how to use stories to support families

“It is what we look forward to most during the week. It has helped me gain tools to calm, soothe and play with baby.”

Demand for PCMG programs across the city led to the establishment in 1991 of a teacher training and apprenticeship process whereby for a modest fee, staff from other agencies attend a PCMG teacher training workshop, apprentice for a year, and become certified to deliver the program in their own agency. As a result, at least 75 other GTA agencies have offered PCMG programs, including some conducted in Farsi and Cantonese. We call these programs run by other agencies associate programs.

Demand for PCMG programs across the country led in 2002 to an extension of the teacher training process whereby other agencies can actually host a teacher training workshop at their own location. We supply the training facilitator and the materials and a volunteer national council oversees the certification process.

The teacher training process operates as a social enterprise, contributing directly to the sustainability and gradual expansion of our core PCMG programs, and indirectly to the propagation of associate PCMG programs everywhere.

What You Can Do

Donation impact:

  • $300 provides one year of healthy snacks to the Rexdale, Parkdale or Somali programs
  • $500 provides TTC tickets to make the program accessible to people who could not otherwise come
  • $7,000 matches funds to support the program in the Malvern area of Scarborough or in Parkdale, allowing the program to run for one year
  • $15,000 would support a whole program for a year!
  • Funds of any amount providee welcome support for the organization's sustainability and capacity to provide a centre for all the programs