Early Years CentresHello Drop In season.

With the cooler temps arriving, families will soon be flocking to places to play inside. If you’ve been on parental leave or caring for children full-time, chances are you’ve dropped in at one of the free indoor Ontario Early Years Centres or the Toronto Parenting and Family Literacy Centres in your community. Here children (under the age of six) can play and parents and caregivers can interact (if they want to.)

Each centre has a different feel, depending on the size, location and the coordinator in charge, but you can count on a similar line up of free play, craft stations, story and circle time, snacks and sometimes more active play in a gym. They also offer information and support for those early years questions affecting you and your child.

Where and how often you frequent really depends on your (and your child’s) personality and mood. We’ve found smaller drop in’s where you’re greeted by name as soon as you walk through the door and others where you’re next to anonymous choosing only to speak up when your child swipes a toy from a “friend.”

No matter the size or vibe, we say thank you. Thank you for keeping us sane.


The low down: There are 78 Toronto Parenting and Family Literacy Centres in elementary schools across the City offering play-based programs designed to support your child’s early learning and development. They are aligned with the Kindergarten program. Contact: 416.394.2104

The 100+ Ontario Early Years Centres across the province are funded by the Government of Ontario. You can search Toronto locations by neighbourhood. Some locations are French. Contact: 1.866.821.7770

Food: Although many provide a free snack time, you can bring your own. Keep it nut-free. Many centres are open over lunch-hour and into the afternoon so you can bring your own lunch and stay awhile.

Pitch in: These are free. So caregivers/parents are expected to pitch in with prepping the snack and tidying up.

FYI: These are not drop off, child-minding services.