New EarlyON centres running in Creemore, Stayner

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Parents with preschool children now have more access to local programs through the creation of EarlyON Child and Family Centres.

Parents at the drop-in centre in Creemore are taking advantage of the opportunity for early learning and socialization. They say their children, who will ultimately go to school together, are getting to know one another, and the adults make friends of their own. The centre is also a safe place to ask parenting questions and make sure their children are on track for healthy learning habits.

That is in a nutshell the intention of EarlyON, formerly Ontario Early Years Centres, where programming is geared to children, zero to six years old, including prenatal.

Margie Riddell continues to facilitate the new Creemore Stay, Play and Learn program. She said age zero to six has been identified as a sensitive time for brain development, an important time to lay the foundation for learning and help with the transition to school. Riddell said they are also aware of the importance in those developing years of having relationships with caring adults.

On Tuesdays and Wednesdays the Station on the Green in Creemore is transformed into a play space, with carpets on the floor, activity tables, toys and books.

“Everyone has contributed to make it their own space,” said Riddell.

One parent brought in a coffee maker, to make it extra homey. They have access to the kitchen and in the warmer weather, they will take advantage of the surrounding lawn.

Parents in Creemore are enjoying the extended hours, saying even if they are running late in the morning, they can still get there and still have plenty of time to play and socialize with other parents. Many said they come both days and sometimes return in the afternoon.

Last year, the Ontario government announced the transformation of the delivery of early years programs for children and families through a $140 million investment and the creation of 100 new EarlyON centres across the province. Starting in January 2018, Ontario Early Years Centres, Parenting and Family Literacy Centres, Child Care Resource Centres and Better Beginnings, Better Futures centres would be known as EarlyON Child and Family Centres.

Only the Ontario Early Years Centres were offered locally – operating out of elementary schools in Creemore and Stayner, said Lora D’Ambrosio, Manager of Early Learning and Child Care for the County of Simcoe.

She said the transformation took place for a number of reasons, including awareness of services, clarity of programming, addressing diversity of families and enhancing quality and creating consistency from site to site.

“This transformation is really about trying to enhance that quality and consistency across Simcoe County and the province,” said D’Ambrosio.

Four agencies deliver EarlyON services in the county. “We have been fortunate that we are building on the strengths that already existed in Simcoe County.”

The Stay, Play and Learn programs are offered two days a week in both Creemore and Stayner. The Station on the Green in Creemore and the Clearview Youth Centre in Stayner are satellite centres of the main centres in Collingwood and Alliston.

“We took considerable data for Simcoe County, with a number of factors, to help us determine where these main sites needed to be, to reach the most families in need and also looking at where services were missing. We also don’t want communities to be without some level of service and that’s why we introduced the two-day program,” said D’Ambrosio.

Parents and children attending EarlyON will also have access to enhanced services and may meet with partners to address specific concerns such as speech and language, for example.

“A lot of this work is being done with our community partners so that they know where these locations are ad what can they offer at the sites to enhance services,” said D’Ambrosio.

They are working with school boards on an agreement that would see EarlyON centres located in elementary schools, in an effort to connect children with the school where they will be attending kindergarten. D’Ambrosio said although the province has a school first approach, that is only if space permits and the location meets the community need.

Where & when

The Collingwood main site is open 6 days per week, year round Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesday, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Thursdays, from 9 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.; Fridays, from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.; Saturdays, from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Creemore Satellite Site – Station on the Green is open Tuesdays and Wednesdays, from 9 a.m. to noon and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

Stayner Satellite Site – Clearview Youth Centre is open Wednesdays and Thursdays, from 9 a.m. to noon and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

For more sites and full schedules, visit

Trina Berlo photo: EarlyON program facilitator Margie Riddell (from right) holds baby Adalynn Welke while chatting with moms Kate Steer Ceccarelli and Melissa Welke, while baby Elizabeth Ceccarelli plays.

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