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Songs, snacks and playtime for Ottawa's youngest Syrian refugees

Four times a week, some of Ottawa's youngest Syrian refugees gather at a downtown hotel for songs, snacks, and playtime — in an attempt to reduce their isolation.

'When you play, you learn,' says organizer of downtown playgroup

Four times a week, Syrian refugee children gather at the Radisson in downtown Ottawa for a playgroup. (Hallie Cotnam/CBC Ottawa)

Four times a week, some of Ottawa's youngest Syrian refugees gather at a downtown hotel for songs, snacks, painting and playtime.

The playgroup at the Radisson Hotel is organized by local community health centres and supervised by early childhood educators.

Its goal is to improve the social, emotional and language skills of the young refugees — many of whom are living in local hotels while their families wait for housing — and also reduce their isolation.

Ottawa Morning's Hallie Cotnam stopped by to meet some of the children.

Young Syrian refugees play at being a mother and a construction worker at a playgroup organized by local community health agencies. (Hallie Cotnam/CBC Ottawa)
One of the youngest members of the Radisson Hotel playgroup. (Hallie Cotnam/CBC Ottawa)
Music makes up just one part of the playgroup, which aims to help reduce the sense of isolation many of the youngest refugees might be dealing with. (Hallie Cotnam/CBC Ottawa)

"This is a great first step for these families who are just learning the language and learning the culture," said Kim Vandermeer of the Somerset West Community Health Centre, one of the organizing groups.

"I think almost anything can be done through play. That's the importance of the playgroup. When you play, you learn."

Refugee children also get a chance to draw and paint at the Radisson playgroup. (Hallie Cotnam/CBC Ottawa)
A painting by one of the Syrian children who take part in the playgroup at the Radisson Hotel. (Hallie Cotnam/CBC Ottawa)
The playgroup is "a great first step for these families who are just learning the language and learning the culture," according to Kim Vandermeer of the Somerset West Community Health Centre.

For sounds from the playgroup, listen below — or if you're on mobile, click here.