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Ontario Early Years Centre

by Yumi The Ontario Early Years Centre (OEYC) calls itself “a place for parents and their children”. I call it “a place that has kept me sane”.  There are locations all over Ontario, with several in the Ottawa area.

I've been bringing my 11-month-old son “Moe” to the playgroups at the OYEC Don Reid location since he was 10 weeks old. At that point, it was more of an outing for me than for him. But it has since become one of his (and my) favourite places to play – and with good reason. We get to play in a bright, spacious area with lots of wonderful high-quality toys. The toys are kept very clean, and there is a wide variety from which to choose. There are different areas for different types of play, including imaginative, crafts, and sensory. And there are lots of wonderful children with whom he can play!

Playgroups are for children ages 0 to 6. Parents with children under one may prefer the Baby and Me playgroup where a smaller “infant friendly” area is blocked off for play. All playgroups have unstructured play time, followed by circle time with songs and a story. Sometimes, instead of circle time, there will be an expert on hand to answer parents' questions – it could be a lactation consultant, a speech therapist, a nutritionist, etc.

Mealtime or snacktime is really easy at the OEYC. Nursing mothers are welcome and accommodated – there's a rocking chair, nursing pillows, and several sofas. It isn't hard to find a quiet little nook for moms who prefer privacy. For older kids, there are high chairs. There's even a kitchen with a fridge and a microwave.

While Moe loves playtime at the OEYC, I've really enjoyed chatting with the other parents. It's a great place to get an idea about ages and stages, to share experiences and contacts and just get a little adult face time.

The OEYC has many other services, too. They hold playgroups at satellite sites around the area. They have a fantastic free toy-lending library, a monthly storytime at Chapters, and a Daddy & Me playgroup (open to dads, grandads and uncles) on the fourth Sunday of every month.

They also offer a number of fantastic workshops. Some are for parents and older kids – for example, Little Chefs is for 3- to 6-year-olds. Others, held in the evenings, are just for parents. There's a monthly Child Care Connection meeting where parents can meet and interview day care providers who have open spots. Other great workshops being offered in the next few months include a baby sign language class, a discussion evening about raising confident children, and a Q and A with a public health nurse. Parents can also take advantage of the OEYC's resource library where books and videos for parents and children are available for loan.

The best part? All playgroups and (just about) all workshops are free of charge! For the location nearest you, check out the general OEYC website . Information about the Don Reid location can be found on their website.

Yumi Webster (@yumikid) loves her job, but is dreading her return to work after a year off with her incredible son “Moe”. You can read about Moe's adventures at kidsquared.livejournal.com, and about Yumi's own adventures at yumikid.livejournal.com. Yumi has lived in Ottawa all her life.