Playing to Learn Cover Photo

Playing to Learn

What is the YMCA Playing to Learn Curriculum?

The YMCA Playing to Learn Curriculum is a national program that is being implemented in all YMCA childcare centres across the country. Based on the most recent research in child brain development, this is a child directed curriculum which means that the activities that are planned by the staff are based on the individual and group interests of the children in each childcare room. The YMCA Playing to Learn Curriculum program believes that children learn best when a child’s day is less structured and there is opportunity for free play and exploration that is supported by qualified early childhood educators. YMCA Early Childhood Educators are very diligent to ensure that children have the opportunity to participate in many experiences and activities that foster the development of fine and gross motor skills, creative arts, literacy, science and pre writing skills. Daily outdoor play is an important part of our program as well.

Are your centres licensed and subsidized?

Yes. All of our centres are licensed, which means that we follow strict government regulations with respect to operations, staffing, programs and safety. All licensed facilities in Saskatchewan are subject to drop in inspections from the Early Learning and Childcare Consultant that is assigned to our region. Being licensed also means that we have access to additional government grant funding to further support children who may have diverse needs. Government subsidy for low income families can also be accessed if your child attends a licensed centre.

Do I qualify for childcare subsidy?

The toll free number for the Saskatchewan Childcare Subsidy is 1.800.667.7155. You may call and ask to speak to an assessor. The subsidy office will ask you for some information including how many dependent children you have, what the gross monthly family income is, and what the total childcare fees are. There are many variables that may affect whether or not you qualify, the best start is to call the subsidy office, or to complete and send in an application. Application forms are available online at or at a licensed childcare centre.

How old does my child have to be?

The YMCA provides community childcare to children 18 months to age 6. A child can begin care the month that they turn 18 months, even if their birthday is at the end of the month.

What qualifications do the staff have?

Staff members employed in a YMCA of Saskatoon Child Development Centre are trained in Early Childhood Education. Some have degrees, certificates or diplomas in Early Childhood Education, while others are in the process of completing classes with a certificate, diploma or degree as the goal. As well, all employees have completed a criminal record check, child abuse welfare check, First aid and CPR. Additionally, early childhood educators participate in national YMCA Playing to Learn training on an ongoing basis to ensure that our programs are following best practices.

What items do I need to send with my child?

Each child should bring an extra change of clothes, any special items they need in order to fall asleep at nap time (such as a blanket or stuffed animal) and clothing suitable for the weather, such as mittens, hats, boots and ski pants in the winter, and sunscreen, hat and insect repellant in the summer. Parents are asked to bring a good supply of diapers for children not yet potty trained, and for children who are potty training many extra sets of underwear and pants are required. All children require a clean pair of indoor shoes when the weather is snowy or inclement. Please clearly label all belongings with your child’s name.

What items should I leave at home?

The centre is well equipped with toys to keep your child entertained, please leave toys from home at home. Toys may be lost or broken, and centre staff members are not always able to spend time searching for misplaced toys. Toy guns and weapons are not permitted at the Centre.

Licensed Care

Licensed care means that the centre or home is licensed and monitored by the ministry of Education, Early Years Branch. The Department of Learning Child Day Care Branch currently regulates and monitors licensed childcare by means of a childcare consultant. In the Saskatoon area, the consultant can be reached by calling 306.933-6071. 

Licensed care homes centers must meet the standards of the Saskatchewan Government Child Care Act and Child Care Regulations (2001) before they receive a license. They are inspected at least once a year and have occasional unannounced drop-in visits to make sure that they are meeting the standards. These standards include the number of children for each staff, group size, minimum play space per child, nutrition, health, safety, and outdoor play. 

In addition to the above requirements, staff members employed in a child care centre are required to have current CPR and First Aid training, TB testing, pass a criminal record check and have a minimum level of early childhood development training, obtained through college or university classes. 

All staff employed at the YMCA Child Development Centres are required to complete a child welfare check and are also required to compete a minimum of one early childhood development course every six (6) months. All of our centres have a parent handbook to inform parents of centre procedures, activities, policies, and parent responsibilities.

Unlicensed Care

Unlicensed care is said to be "unregulated". This means it has few legal requirements to meet and no one is inspecting the premises. Unlicensed care includes nannies, private childcare sitters, friends, or relatives. Your child can be looked after either in your home or be taken to the childcare provider's home. There is no such thing as an unlicensed centre in Saskatchewan.


Licensed childcare centers are obliged to follow ratios with respect to the maximum number of children that can be with one staff member.

  • One staff:3 infants
  • One staff:5 toddlers
  • One staff:10 pre-school age
  • One staff:15 school age

Childcare Subsidy

 Licensed childcare may give you the opportunity, depending on your gross monthly income, to receive subsidy for your child's care. 

To find out if you may qualify for subsidy, call 1.800.667.7155

Be prepared to provide the assessor with your average gross family income, and the total childcare fees that you will be expected to pay to the childcare facility.

Questions to ask a provider:

It is important that you make the effort to find a childcare provider that will suit your needs and the needs of your child. Take the time to make a phone call to find basic information. This is your screening process. Write down the answers while you are talking to the person.

Questions to ask by Telephone

  • Is the centre/home currently taking children?
  • Is there a waiting list?
  • Are they aware of homes or centres with vacancies?
  • Where are they located? Is the home or centre licensed?
  • Are there schools nearby? Where?
  • What are the basic fees?
  • Are there any extra charges? What are they?
  • Do they provide tax receipts?
  • What are the provider’s qualifications/education?
  • Do they provide references?
  • What is the age range of children enrolled?
  • How many children are enrolled in the centre or home?

Check the answers you have been given. Do you feel comfortable with the answers? Only make an appointment to go to the facility if you are comfortable with the answers to the phone interview. 


Questions to ask on-site

Take your child with you. Watch how s/he interacts with the provider and/or staff. How does the provider and/or staff behave with and speak to your child?

  • What hours are they open?
  • What are the drop-off and pick up times?
  • Are there extra fees for dropping the child off early or picking him/her up late?
  • What are the rules about other people picking up the child from the centre or home?
  • What is the fee structure? Cost? How to pay? When to pay?
  • Payment during vacation (yours and theirs)? Do you pay when your child is ill or absent?
  • What is the policy regarding sick children?
  • How much notice does the parent have to give for the withdrawal of the child?
  • How much notice does the provider have to give the parent when asking for the child to be removed?
  • What type of parent involvement and responsibilities does the centre or home expect?
  • How do they communicate with parents with regard to changes in program, fees, activities, and other important information?
  • What are the breakfast and lunch provisions? Are snacks provided?
  • Are there any special features of the program?
  • What is the program for a typical day/week? Does it balance active and quiet play?
  • What types of field trips and outings are provided? How are the children transported? How do they make sure the children are safe (e.g. extra caregivers)?
  • Do they have a written policy and procedures manual to give to the parents?
  • What procedures are followed in the event of an emergency including fire safety? Do they include practicing with the children?
  • What are the procedures for administering medicine to a child?

How can I tell if there may be a problem?

It is unrealistic to expect a problem-free child care relationship. Every relationship has challenges. There are some steps that can be taken to avoid problems or help when problems occur.

Discuss problems and issues with the provider as soon as possible. Use a low key, non-threatening, non-abusive manner.

  • Keep track of your child’s behaviour. What do the “experts” say a child will do at your child’s age?

Be aware of the following red flags. Red flags are signals that there may be a problem with your child care arrangement. A combination of many red flags should be a sign to the parent that their arrangements may not be working out.

Does your child?

  • Show a reluctance or fear (other than the normal not wanting to leave a parent) to go to centre even after they have been attending for awhile?
  • Have a loss of appetite or a noticeable change in sleep patterns (e.g. trouble falling asleep, sleep more than usual, have nightmares, start wetting the bed again)?
  • Seem unusually upset or fearful of the providers and/or other children in the centre or home?
  • Physically stay away from or withdraw from the provider?
  • Get upset easier than usual or cry more than usual? Seem withdrawn, have less energy, or is being more aggressive (more hurtful in action or words) towards other children?

Does your provider?

  • Let the children scream and fight in the background while talking with you?
  • Speak harshly or negatively to you or the children?
  • Stop you from moving out of the doorway when you drop-off or pick up your child?
  • Become angry or make excuses when you calmly ask about your child?
  • Speak negatively about other children or adults?
  • Seem to avoid you or refuse to tell you about your child’s day?
  • Refuse to clean the facility or provide normal safety features for children?
  • Seem to have lost interest in providing care and early learning experiences for the children?
  • Have more children in the home or centre than is allowed? 

Your Role In A Childcare Partnership

  • Remember that childcare providers are operating a business! They have business expenses that they must pay each month. Pay on time and in full.
  • Do not bring sick children to the centre or home. Your child can make other children ill. Find alternate arrangements if your child is not feeling well unless you have made arrangements with your provider.
  • Make sure you provide a contact number for yourself or another contact in case of an emergency.
  • Pick up and drop off your child on time. Let the provider know if the times they are needed have changed.
  • Be sure to let the provider know about any important changes in the child’s life. A disruption at home increases the chances of a change in behavior in other areas of the child’s life.
  • Make appointments with your provider to discuss important things. They are busy at drop-off and pick up times, at meals, at play times.
  • Providers often provide general information by way of newsletters, bulletin boards, or notices sent home with the child. Please be sure to check for these on a daily basis so that you know what is happening at the centre or home.
  • Do not discuss your child’s behaviour problems or problems with the child care service in front of your child.
  • Bring issues to the attention of the provider tactfully and in a time set aside for that purpose. Avoid rude and loud confrontations. Put all decisions in writing.
  • Review all policy manuals and regulations on a regular basis

 What to do if there is a problem

  • Identify the problem. What do you want to solve?
  • Be clear of your position. What are you willing to let go and what will you not change?
  • Explain the problem in a clear, calm way.
  • Listen to the provider. Proper listening means that you are not defensive or thinking of how to answer the person while they are talking. It means really paying attention to them. It means repeating what they said using your own words to make sure you understand his/her position.
  • Try to find many possible solutions and choose the solution you both think is the best.
  • Work with your provider to create a plan of action? What will you do, what will the provider do?
  • Put the plan in writing, both of you sign the plan, and each of you keep a copy