Friday Feature: Ontario Early Years Centres

Friday Feature at The Bibliotaphe Closet:

Ontario Early Years Centres

10.19.2012

By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis

If you live in Ontario, Canada and have a young one up to the age of six, then an Ontario Early Years Centre is perfect for you!

I recently learned of the OEYC and its accessibility from a neighbourhood mom while strolling home with my daughter. Once I did a little research I was pleased to find out that a location was merely a 10-minute walk from my house!

The Ontario Early Years Centre Program

An Ontario Early Years Centre is a place for children up to the age of six and their parents and caregivers to take part in programs and activities together. Parents and caregivers can also get information about their children’s development and about services to support that development from the Early Childhood Educators on site.

And the even better news is that the programs and services are free to all parents and caregivers of young children who attend the program!

Here are the activities available through the OYEC:

  • Early learning and literacy programs for parents and children.
  • Programs to help parents and caregivers in all aspects of early child development.
  • Programs on pregnancy and parenting.
  • Links to other early years programs in the community.
  • Outreach activities so all parents can get involved with their local Ontario Early Years Centre.

My three-year-old daughter, Mercedes, and I have been actively attending our OYEC at least once a week now for about a month and have thoroughly enjoyed it!

The Centre we visit is open from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. and re-opens from 1:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. on weekdays. It’s also open on Saturdays for those who are available on the weekend. We’re lucky in that the centre we visit runs on a drop-in schedule and only requires registration for the first time you and your child attends.

Mercedes always looks forward to going and refers to it as “little school.”

Once there, we are able to visit the different activity centres that promote early learning through play and interaction. And Mommy, Daddy, or the caregiver is right there with the child to actively participate too!

At yesterday’s visit, our centre celebrated its 10th year anniversary and yes, one of the highlights for my daughter was the cake! But education and fun is had on regular days, too, where Mercedes has enjoyed the following activities/activity centres:

  • The Reading Lounge
  • writing, drawing on paper and the chalkboard
  • playing at the train set table
  • The Blocks and Building Centre – blocks, link blocks, cars, dinosaurs, magnets etc.
  • The Role Play Centre – dolls, dress-up costumes
  • The Toddler Centre – steering wheel, toys, puzzles
  • The Craft and Exploring Centre – drawing, painting, crafts, play-dough, play kitchen
  • The Quiet Room – a great place to read together, play with flashcard games, look at specimens
  • The Snack Centre  and Kitchenette – where the children have a spot to wash their hands (in a sink their size!) and eat snacks provided by their parent(s)/caregiver.

Mercedes and I visit each activity centre with ease and interest. Aside from playing and learning, she’s also getting exposed to interacting with other children before attending Junior Kindergarten next September, which is perfect for her because she’s shy.

She especially enjoys Circle Time at the end of each session and has enjoyed singing, dancing, and playing instruments once we’re home, too, to reiterate what she’s learned. Her favourite songs include:

  • Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star
  • Incy-Wincy Spider
  • The Wheels on the Bus
  • Zoom, Zoom, Zoom, We’re Going to the Moon!
  • If You’re Happy and You Know It Clap Your Hands…
  • The Hokey-Pokey

(Okay, I’ll admit it—I enjoy singing and playing along, too!)

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It’s not only a great source of fun for the kids, it’s also a space for parents to build friendships, and have access to early years educational information and services.

If you’ve got a little one at home and would like to expose your child to literacy and learning, be sure to take advantage of the Ontario Early Years Centre near you.

For more information on the program and its locations, you can visit the website.

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Mercedes’ first piece of art work at the Craft Centre when attending the OEYC. Media: paper, acrylic paint, tissue paper, stickers, and foam.

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Mercedes’ drawing that she worked on while visiting our OEYC.

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In what ways can you think of to improve a child’s literacy?

What was your favourite form of play and learning in school as a young child?

How do you feel about the implementation of  “All-Day Kindergarten” in Ontario?

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