OEYC is the acronym for Ontario Early Years Centre – they are free programs for children ages 0 – 6 years and their parents. They are truly one of the greatest things on earth. Apparently there are over 100 in Ontario. I don’t want to confuse the issue by the different names of different organizations (such as the readiness centres and readiness hubs) that are governed by different agencies or school boards. Let’s just consider them all OEYC-type things.
I basically live at them. So do my kids. That’s why my kids are happy, healthy and super social. And I am happy (and pretty social;)
It started when Mr. Sensitive, now age 4, was a newborn. Mr. Sensitive had colic – he cried for about 11 hours a day, every day – I had to get out! I called around looking for some sort of mom’s group to belong to. I heard about these government run programs for early childhood. Imagining something like the Service Canada Offices and tax forms I ventured forth.
As I hesitated in the doorway with my screaming infant an instructor approached me, offered to take my screaming child and started to explain the infant programs. I was in nirvana! Someone actually wanted to hold my screaming, irritable baby. I joined the other mothers and their (not screaming) children and we sang songs and did games with our babies. Mr. Sensitive was passed around the room as mothers from all over the world tried to settle him.
We were regular fixtures at the centre – watching our baby friends grow up and explore the world. Mr. Sensitive was the loudest baby in the program at any given time – out screaming 39 other children combined. Mr. Sensitive would quiet for his favourite songs, and then rally forth into screaming between songs. The instructor soon learned to just keep the songs coming. Soon we were attending the OEYC 6 days a week. My husband worked 12-hour shifts, so I had no support at home. The OEYCs became my family.
Little Miss Adorable’s arrival resulted in more frequent visits to my local OEYC. She was the star of Infant Mother Goose and Infant Massage. She smiled her way into the behind the scenes world of the OEYC and sat in on staff meetings, cuddled up to the Executive Director. Little Miss Adorable’s gross motor ability is significantly delayed, but it was at the OEYC where she started to roll. Little Miss Adorable would watch other babies her age struggling to crawl – and she would log roll right past them. Little Miss Adorable would roll across the playroom, first slowly exploring then racing to her favorite toys all the while rolling at lightning speed.
In a time where everyone is selling a product to make your baby smarter – from toys and DVDs, to snacks and beverages we forget what really helps children learn – time spent playing with a caring adult. The OEYCs (and their relatives) win hands down – they are free. Heck, they encourage folks to come out and make a mess playing with their child. Where else can you do that?