City launches new EarlyON Child and Family Centres

Beginning the second week of July, families with children six and under will have more places and times to check out drop-in activities throughout Kingston and Frontenac County.

The City of Kingston recently announced its new EarlyON Child and Family Centres will be open for public drop-in beginning Monday, July 9, 2018. These centres will offer a variety of different programs and services, including free drop-in programs for children 0 to 6 years old, play-based activities like storytelling, sing-alongs and games, and a means for parents to connect with other families in their area. The Centres will offer French program at dedicated sites, and plan to offer indigenous programming, as well.

EarlyON Centres are the result of the 2016 Ministry of Education decision to combine four programs into an integrated system of supports for parents, explained Laura Austin, childcare and early years supervisor with the City of Kingston’s Housing and Social Services Department.

Over the course of 2017, the City performed a community consultation, Austin explained, and the findings of that consultation served as a directive for the programming that will be available at EarlyON Centres (which are within already existing facilities). The consultation findings also determined how and where the programming will be delivered.

“What we heard from parents was they really preferred the drop-in programs versus registered programs,” Austin explained, noting that parents also wanted weekday programming, longer drop in hours, more play groups, and to be in recreation centres, schools and libraries.

“If you look at our schedule, we’ve really tried to expand our hours, as parents requested. We put in longer hours, we have some night hours in there, and we have some weekend hours.”

Austin noted that the EarlyON programming will be expanding in September into the four school boards across Kingston and Frontenac County, furthering the City’s goal to provide these supports and programs for parents and children at more locations and more flexible times.

“Your child doesn’t go down for a nap at the same time every day, and some days you have appointments and other engagements,” Austin said.

“That can make it really difficult for parents to get their children to programs that run, say, from 9 a.m. to noon. The new longer drop-in hours make it more flexible and easy for parents.”

And, while one of the goals of creating the EarlyON Centres was to try to offer programing in as many neighbourhoods as possible, Austin points out that parents are welcome to go to any of the Centres in Kingston and Frontenac County, so they can explore different places and programs, and meet with more families doing the same.

“We really want parents to be able to know what’s happening throughout their whole area, and that they’re able to attend wherever they’re comfortable,” said Austin.

The City encourages all parents with children six and under to drop-in to any of the locations to find out more about what EarlyON Centres can offer. Full schedules with drop-in times and locations are available on the City’s EarlyON page at www.CityofKingston.ca/EarlyON. Check there often to stay up to date on upcoming pop-up centres, as well.

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