Parents, caregivers and family members play an important role in the ongoing development of a child. Providing a safe and caring environment for your child and engaging with them through talking, reading and playtime has a great influence on their early development.

Community and learning environments can also play a key role in supporting optimal development through providing support, learning opportunities and social experiences.

Funded by the Ministry of Education, EarlyON provides a welcoming and inclusive space for all children, ages birth to six years, and their families to participate in programs on-site and virtually. “We are designed to support the seamless transition from pregnancy to parenting, to child care to entering Kindergarten,” said Stacey McCormick, Director, EarlyON Operations at YMCA of Three Rivers. “We are funded to support families prenatally to children up to age 6. We strive to provide caring environments, programming, and support for families as they raise their children to age 6 and beyond.”

Programs are free and provide experiences that foster social, emotional growth and development in the early years. Programs facilitate strong relationships between parents and caregivers and their local community and can assist parents and caregivers in accessing services and supports that respond to a family’s unique needs.

What parents can expect in EarlyON?

EarlyON offers a range of drop-in and pre-registered programs where families can connect with other families with young children, find support or resources within the community and get advice from professionals trained in early childhood.

Furthermore, EarlyON has welcoming spaces that are planned and prepared based on the interest of the children and that are closely aligned with what they can expect coming to the Kindergarten classroom.

Going to Kindergarten is an exciting time for children and their families, but it can also be a time of anxiety and uncertainty. EarlyON utilizes How Does Learning Happen? Ontario’s Pedagogy for Early Years, also used in the Kindergarten classroom, to ease some of those feelings and make the transition easier for the parent, caregiver and the child.

These early experiences are instrumental in helping parents conceptualize what learning through play looks like. They could apply this new knowledge to their understanding of Kindergarten when their children began school. This kind of unique approach by the Ministry of Education encourages parents to play an active role in their children’s education, as it is recognized that parent engagement is a key factor in the enhancement of student achievement and well-being.

EarlyON offers a purpose-built design, which allows them to offer unique opportunities for parents who are coming to those EarlyON locations to walk into the school to get familiar with some of the people, with the school layout and to have that unique connection of community between the school, the child care and the EarlyON programs. This will help parents, caregivers and children into a smooth transition into the programs, fostering a sense that parents and caregivers are part of their child’s learning experience.

EarlyON Child and Family Centres can also be found throughout Waterloo Region in both centre-based locations (Waterloo and Cambridge) and mobile locations throughout the Region. Colocated within WRDSB schools, you can find these services in Riverside Public School in Elmira and Cedar Creek Public School in Ayr. Soon there will be a new location in Southwest Kitchener.
WRDSB is committed to making it easier for families to access high-quality, inclusive early years programs in schools across Waterloo Region to support an affordable, accessible, integrated early learning and child care system. In partnership with EarlyON Child and Family Centres in the Waterloo Region, we provide these spaces where children, parents, and caring adults can learn, play, laugh and be curious.

Learn more about EarlyON and Before and After School Programs: