The age-old mom’s coffee klatch has gone online!

We called it Toy Trade… Pam, Marg, Yvonne, Tiina and I.  Our kids: Tommy, Cheryl, Valerie, Krista and Em.

Every Wednesday morning… a craft, a treat, a song, coffee for moms and, at the end of the morning, a toy to take home that belonged to one of your friends.

Enormous benefits for all of us.  In the same neighbourhood, we popped the kids into their strollers and enjoyed our Toy Trade mornings at each others’ homes.  We shared what was happening in our lives; we shared advice about teething, measles, chicken pox, ear aches.  We celebrated that right-of-passage that every parent of a newborn waits for:  sleeping through the night!  We supported each other as each mom defined  herself and planned for a paid-work future.  We went on outings together… Santas Village in Bracebridge; Springwater Park Zoo; Centennial Park Beach; many outings.  We were together for five years, til kindergarten began when the kids were five.

The kids benefitted by borrowing a new toy for a whole week.  They learned take care of it and return it in good condition.  They learned the importance of sharing.  As parents, we shared our big purchase plans so we avoided duplication and augmented the toys that could be traded.

Sounds old fashioned now, but it was a highlight of our week then.  Today, most of us are grandmothers.  We meet once a year for dinner and theatre and pass around cell phones with pictures of our kids and grandkids.

Today, we have facebook, message boards, websites, linkedin; lots of ways to connect with other people.

Karrie Copelli has grabbed the concept of moms and kids benefitting from connecting to and with each other and she’s expanded the online neighbourhood to include a website.  It’s called Momstown.

Karrie bought the Momstown Barrie area franchise from two founding moms who developed the concept four years ago.  There are now 18 Momstown chapters and 4000 members across Ontario, Manitoba and Alberta.  Karrie has been a member of Momstown since its first month.  She was a chapter manager as the Momstown idea grew and when the founders decided to franchise, Karrie bought in immediately.

“They took the old concept of a mom’s group and by putting it online, they made it so much more,” says Karrie of the Momstown founders.

Momstown members (annual membership is $45) get access to local mothers who share advice and support.  There are all kinds of kid-centred events to attend.  Advice.  Discussion.  Exclusive discounts from local businesses and national businesses such as Fisher Price.  There’s Momstown Minds, a product testing and feedback opportunity.  The Barrie chapter offers an annual Mom to Mom sale, a Toy Exchange, a Spring Cleaning Swap.

Herself mom of two, Karrie feels that as well as online communication, it’s important for moms and kids to meet each other too, so she plans regular events to get people into the community for social times.

“The whole idea is to connect online and have that 24 hour support.  Crafts, music, themed events, it’s all there.”  While Karrie says nobody is excluded from membership, the majority of members are moms.  “We do have some dads and some grandmas, but 99% of our members are moms.”

Karrie says children’s ages tend to be birth to age six… when parenting is its most intense from a time standpoint.

She feels there are lots of women out there who, like her, move to Barrie and don’t know anyone, or feel isolated with a newborn, or have moved here without the benefit of extended family, or just want to connect with other people who are in the same age and stage of life.  She says once moms go back to work, they cut back on the events they attend but stay for the on-line connection and opportunity to share information.

It sure takes Toy Trade to a new level!

Thanks, Karrie.