Monday October 23. Despite the early hour, there is a lot of action at the Boucherville CPE, which is hosting La Presse on the occasion of National Early Childhood Educators Week, which took place in October. In the Crocodiles and Lions room, where children from 18 months to 4 years old are grouped together, apprentice drivers drive imaginary cars, dinosaurs roar and a little cook heats a delicious meal… in a microwave oven. drink. ” Attention ! It’s hot ! », warns Greyssy Perez-Martinez, blowing on the empty plate.

Since 7 a.m., the little ones have been arriving at the CPE one after the other. “I’m happy to see you,” says the educator to a boy who has just entered the room. In response, she receives a big hug.

For a little girl, this start of the week is more difficult. Her smile turns to tears as her father leaves the room. Her educator Nancy Théberge consoles her by rocking her. The pain fades quickly.

While the educators clean the tables, the children are happy to return to play. The house corner is particularly popular this morning, because new cradles for dolls have appeared there. “We really saw that there was interest in babies, but we found that there was a lack of things in that area,” explains Greyssy Perez-Martinez. Observing all the children and then offering activities or toys related to their areas of interest is one of the important roles of educators, underlines the deputy director of the Boucherville CPE, Janick Lafrenière.

Two children chase each other around the room. Greyssy Perez-Martinez, who has worked in the field since 2018, concludes that they are bored. So she shows them how to play veterinarian. Very quickly, a crowd forms around her.

Meanwhile, Nancy Théberge changes the little Crocodiles’ diapers. In her group, six out of eight children wear them, says the educator who has 32 years of experience. “That’s a lot of diapers! » While some might see it as a thankless task, the director of the installation, Janick Lafrenière, argues that it is “a special time to spend with the children”. “It’s a moment where there is an exchange, an eye contact, a gentle touch, a discussion. »

It’s time to go play outside. After a visit to the locker room during which the educators patiently helped the children get dressed, the little ones meet up with their friends from other groups in the playground. “We advocate outdoor play a lot,” says Janick Lafrenière.

Back in a surprisingly quiet place. Little mouths will delight in cook Nathalie Bédard’s minestrone soup. This break is only short-lived. Once the meal is over, some are full of energy and return to playing loudly. On the contrary, others, smaller, are on the verge of dozing off. From 18 months to 4 years, children do not all have the same needs. “It’s a challenge,” concedes Nancy Théberge, who sometimes would like to skip “the hubbub effect” experienced after dinner. Between cleaning tables, changing diapers and preparing the room for naptime, educators also have to manage some conflicts.

“We open our eyes wide, we open our ears wide and we zip our mouths,” recite the Crocodiles and the Lions in chorus. They listen attentively to the story of Pacôme the ghost before settling down on their respective mattresses. The two educators tuck in the children one by one. During naptime, they fill out the communication notebooks which allow parents to know how the day is going.

Little ones are waking up little by little. For some, this moment is more difficult. A little girl is crying. Greyssy Perez-Martinez offers him a hug. After putting away the mattresses, the snack routine begins again: the little ones wash their hands and sit down at the table. The day will end outside. In the locker room, we say goodbye to the group. Moved, we realize that some would like to see us stay.

During La Presse’s visit to the CPE in Boucherville, a group had to be closed due to the unexpected absence of an educator. Some children were able to be moved to other groups, but some families were deprived of service. “Our main issue at the moment is the shortage of staff,” underlines the deputy director, Janick Lafrenière.

“The issue of the labor shortage is quite widespread,” confirms Sandro Di Cori, general director of the Association québécoise des CPE, which brings together around 800 members. Remote regions are most affected.

Janick Lafrenière and Sandro Di Cori believe that low salaries and the undervaluation of the profession do not encourage recruitment. Among the preconceptions that educator Greyssy Perez-Martinez is used to hearing is the famous “it’s easy, you just play all day.” “It really goes beyond that. I educate children. They learn so much through play.”