Get with the Program: The Pre-School Edition #teachmetuesday By Janis Lempera
Even if your kids are too young for big kid school, September still brings a feeling of a back-to-routine for many families. Whether your kids are starting a new year of preschool or entering daycare, there are great local options for our youngest residents.
First, a few disclaimers:
1) This is by no means an exhaustive list of daycares and preschools in the area, only ones my children have attended, or I have heard good things about from my friends and neighbours.
2) I have 3 kids under 6. We’ve lived in the area for 5 years. Among them, they’ve attended four local nursery schools or daycares.
If you are already in your second trimester and you don’t have your name on the Sprouts waiting list, you may be out of luck. The daycare located in McMurrich Public School is nearly impossible to get into—and with good reason—it’s a great place. By shear luck, my daughter secured a spot in the infant room; she was cuddled and nurtured and stimulated by an experienced team of baby whisperers. If you land a spot, take it.
Oakwood Children’s House
OCH is a tiny program (only 16 children ages 2.5 to 6) housed in a bright room in McMurrich Playschool. The modified Montessori program is run by an energetic Montessori accredited teacher and small team of ECE’s. The structured daily program is enriched with French lessons, music, dance and pilates and regular field trips to the library and beyond. If your child thrives on routine and a calm environment, this daycare is a great fit. Many parents elect to keep their kids at OCH instead of sending them to JK.
Hippo Nursery School
You don’t send your child to Hippo School, you send your family. Hippo is a co-op and with that comes extra work, but also extra benefits for parents and caregivers. The staff are loving and dedicated to the program—many have been with the school for decades and most started out as Hippo parents themselves. If you’re new to the community and looking to build a network for yourselves and your kids, Hippo is a great option. It may also be the most flexible preschool in the area. You can enroll your child for half or full days, 3 to 5 days a week and change your usage as needed. How Joanna, their incredible administrator, keeps track of everyone’s schedule is beyond me!
Helene Comay Nursery School
I’ve heard friends describe Helene Comay as the perfect nursery school. It’s located in a bright room in the Wychwood Barns—with access to the grounds and playground. The play based curriculum is led by an experienced and nurturing staff of ECE’s. Many families elect to keep their children at HCNS for a second year instead of sending them to junior kindergarten. The school’s founder Helene Comay has more than 50 years experience as a leader in early childhood education and is a pioneer of play based learning. In 2016, York University honoured her with an honorary doctor of laws degree.
For families with older siblings at McMurrich, the play school is a great option. It’s based out of a room in the basement that’s surprisingly bright and airy, families have the option to enroll 2, 3 or 5 days a week and drop-off is conveniently scheduled for right after the last bell (8:45). Run by an ECE (who’s also an elementary school teacher) and an ECA, the program is designed to gently prepare little ones for big-kid school. The play school is a co-op, but I’ve heard from current and alumni families that the time commitment isn’t too onerous, and it’s a great way to learn how your kids spend their mornings.
Bloorview Play and Learn
At this unique nursery school, classes welcome those who are differently abled. The staff is loving, warm and well-trained to support children of all abilities. A friend who sends her children to Bloorview feels it has really helped her girls learn about acceptance and empathy at a young age. As the program is entirely play-based, each child grows and learns at their own pace. It also has an excellent soft gym! One thing to note—the program is short: 9:00am to 11:15am.
Photo Credit: Janis Lempera