First Impressions: St. Matthew YMCA Child Care Centre

All that you find at the Whitby St. Matthew YMCA Centre will make sense to parents that are seeking quality childcare at an affordable price in North Whitby. The YMCA is the largest not for profit provider of Licensed Child Care in Canada and they use a Play To Learn curriculum.

A view from the street in front of Whitby St. Matthew YMCA Centre

The location is perfect if you plan on sending your child to St Matthews or have children that already attend this school. The day care operates out of the same building as the elementary school so it shares a lot of the same look and feel inside. The toddler room has tall ceilings and lots of natural light from the windows that look out onto the outdoor space in the front yard.

Whenever I go on a tour I make sure to take a look at all the facilities. It’s easy to overlook parts of a program or a facility if you’ve been looking at a lot of centres. This happened on my tour when I was invited to see the washroom/change room. It looks like most centres – Neat, tidy, organized. That was until I noticed the detailed notes hanging from the wooden cubbies that divided up the children’s wipes and diapers. On each note were instructions for each parent’s preferences for diaper changes. I can appreciate seeing something like this because it shows that staff are listening to parents. It can be time consuming to stay on top of documentation in any job but what I liked to see is that the staff at this centre make a special effort to do so. Part of the reason that staff are able to maintain this level of detail in their work is because the number of children that attend here is kept intentionally small. The centre is licensed for up to 15 children but they currently only take 10.

Detailed documentation is even a part of the communication booklets that are shared with parents daily. Communication booklets or sheets are something that most centres will have. What’s special about what the YMCA offers is that their book is a communication and Continual Development Booklet all in one. This booklet tracks daily activity notes in addition to notes on how your child is meeting developmental milestones. The intention of this tool is to create discussion with parents and help shape the types of activities they take on to help further their development. If you’re interested in learning more, below are the details:

  • Accepting children from 15 months and up.
  • Centre is open from 6.45am-6pm.
  • The monthly rate varies. The rate is calculated using the daily rate multiplied by the number of weekdays in the month (e.g. For September 2015, the daily rate of $45.45 is multiplied by the 22 week days in the month = $999.90). Across the year, you can expect to pay between $954.45 and $1045.35 per month. This number includes tax.
  • Registration is additional at $45.
  • All food is included in the price. This includes 2 snacks and one meal, daily.
  • Laundry is done on site. This saves from taking blankets home and washing them each week.

First Impressions: Royal Pine Montessori Academy

Royal Pine Montessori Academy is new to Durham so a quick search for reviews won’t yield much. Open since September last year, this gorgeous facility operating out of downtown Whitby is one that I’m sure will build a good name for itself. If you find yourself falling somewhere between loving the day care centre model but preferring the look of a home daycare environment, this option could be for you. At Royal Pine what stood out for me was the staff. After meeting Jamar for my tour, I can understand why one of the parents followed him from his last workplace to here – he’s one of the few childcare professionals I’ve met with a truly vibrant energy and passion for education.

A view of Royal Pine Montessori from Ash Street, Whitby

In any tour, it’s important to ask any burning What-if questions to get staff out of tour mode and get a sense for how they handle issues day to day. In most cases, the answers most centres provide are the same. What I look for is the way staff answer to learn more about their personalities. At Royal Pine, I asked what would happen to my child if I had a GO Train delay that caused me to be late. Jamar was nothing less than professional when he explained that many of the parents he worked for have been in similar situations and in those cases, he makes do. No hesitation in his response, no guilt trip, no long-winded warning about arriving late in unforeseen circumstances – only professionalism, understanding and a promise that my child would be cared for regardless of the situation.

The facility is every bit as historic and homely inside as it is, outside. The backyard is lush and green, covered in grass with lots of shade from mature trees. The toddler room is located on the main floor of the building and is connected to a kitchen where lunches will be prepared, on site. I say – will be – as the toddler program has not yet opened. Royal Pine is accepting applications and plans to begin this program within the next few months or earlier, based on demand.

  • Registration is $150.
  • Accepting children from 18 months to 6 years.
  • Open from 7am to 6pm.
  • Full and part time care available.
  • Toddler program fees start at $675 for part time care (3 days, 9am-3.30pm) and start at $950 for full time care (5 days, 9am-3.30pm).
  • Lunch fees are additional.
  • MACTE accredited teachers.
  • French, Gym and Music programs included.

First Impressions: Read-A-Long Nursery School

Blink and you might miss it – Read-A-Long Nursery School and Day Care is located along Thickson Road, Whitby, in an unassuming, converted home. Inside, this centre feels like the home of a large family. There are definitely more modern and well-designed centres out there, but that’s not the charm here. What impressed me most about this centre is it’s welcoming atmosphere and vibrant energy. There’s nothing snooty about it. The children express themselves freely and the staff are relaxed and at ease.

Read A Long Nursery School and Day Care

Part of me always wonders if staff act differently when parents visit on tours. At Read A Long I never felt like that was the case. There was no change in body language when I joined the room, no fake smiles. The staff in the toddler room talked freely about their curriculum as they sat among the children, wiping noses and correcting behaviour.

The kitchen/dining/living room space on the main floor is one mostly without walls. At the time of my tour, there were preschoolers in the living room dancing for their music class and a large group chattering vividly as they worked on their artwork in the dining area. The chef joined their conversation from the kitchen next to their table, smiling and laughing while she cut cheese for their morning snack. The hustle and bustle here reminds me of what it feels like to visit family during Christmas. Lots of excitement and noise, with relaxed parents working hard in the background to make sure everyone has a good time.

My tour review wouldn’t be complete without a mention of the outdoor space on offer here. Any concerns you may have about the busy road location will be long gone once you see the backyard. The large area, variety of play structures, mature trees and green grass is similar to what you’d enjoy at a park in your own neighbourhood.

I commend Read-A-Long for all the information they provide online for parents. Many of the details listed below and testimonials are available on their site, but are repeated here as a summary:

  • Accepting children from 12 months and up.
  • Full time, full day care is $210 per week ($840 per month).
  • Full time and part time care is available.
  • Open from 6.30am to 6.30pm.
  • Centre closes earlier for the months of July and August at 6pm.
  • No registration fee is required.
  • Vacation policy: 2 weeks at no charge, per year.

What’s on this Mother’s Day in Durham

I’ve left the planning of my own Mother’s Day to the very last minute. I know I can’t be the only one – Mother’s Day can be a struggle because we’re so busy putting our families first, even before ourselves. Here’s my challenge for you this weekend. Make this Mother’s Day about recognizing all that you do for your family and enjoy yourself. If you’re struggling for ideas for things to do, I’ve got you covered:A mother and child hold a paper heart together

Things to do to treat yourself:
– Enjoy a gentle yoga class and free cupcake at Rejuvenation Point studio.
– Forget the diet and enjoy a meal at Baldwin Street Burger.
– Window shop at your own pace at the Oshawa Centre and the Pickering Town Centre.
– Splurge on a bottle of wine at the LCBO and enjoy a glass on your deck.

Things to do with your family:
– Pack the stroller and walk along the waterfront at the Kiwanis Heydenshore Park.
– Visit the Bowmanville Zoo and watch the animals.
– Create a mom and baby handprint keepsake at home.
– Enjoy the sun and new flavours at the Gourmet Food Truck Frenzy.


First Impressions: Marigold Montessori

Marigold Montessori is best described as the kind of day care centre you’d expect to find in a small village, only in a convenient downtown Whitby location. Standing at the entrance to the centre at the back of the church, it’s hard to believe that you’re even close to the bustle of downtown Whitby. The fenced-in yard is covered in neatly trimmed grass, away from the main street. Inside, there’s a small but dedicated staff who work closely together and run a variety of concerts throughout the year for parents and children to enjoy. A few of the staff members that I met on my tour had been working at this location for more than seven years.

Marigold Montessori as seen from Dundas Street in Whitby

Marigold Montessori is located in the All Saints Anglican Church on Dundas Street.

You’ll find the entrance at the back of the church, next to the area for parking and the yard. This entrance connects to stairs that will take you down to the basement level of the church where the centre is located. Once you arrive, the pride of ownership is immediate. The facility is immaculate. At no point in any tour was I expecting to see perfection in the way a centre is kept clean. If I was, this would be the place to beat. All Montessori learning materials are neatly stacked on shelves and not once did I ever see a dusty corner or shelf.

What I like about this centre is that children are exposed to music, French and sign language programs in addition to their regular classroom schedule. I spoke to the sign language program instructor and without my asking, she made a comment that the children at this facility were among the best behaved that she’s ever worked with. I would never have believed it if I didn’t see it with my own eyes. The energy here is a lot more subdued and mature than other centers that I’ve visited, with an even mix of children of all ages up to five. If your child thrives in a structured and personal environment, this option could be the one for you.

  • Accepting children from 18 months onwards.
  • Part time and full time care available.
  • Parking is easy to access with more than 8 spaces available.
  • Fees start at $330 per month for three half days per week and goes up to $1,000 per month for five full days (for children starting at age 18 months in the Pre-Casa program).
  • Full days begin at 9am and end at 3.30pm.
  • Additional time between 7-9am and 3.30-6pm is billed in 15 minute increments at a fee of $2.50.
  • Registration is $50 and is non-refundable.

Get fitted for baby’s first walking shoes

 Finding shoes for my little man was straightforward until he really started walking. It required me to think more about the construction of the shoes he was wearing. Robeez were nice, but too soft for outdoor use. The boots from GAP I liked had a firm sole, but seemed too clunky for learning to walk. The usual places I would buy clothes only had more of the same – fashionable, but poorly constructed shoes. This left me researching online like crazy for the perfect shoes for his growing feet. The more I searched for reviews online, the more of a chore it came to be. Turns out I was searching for the wrong thing. What I should have been looking for was Kids Kicks, a local specialty shoe store for kids. It’s a small store but a busy one, with attentive and helpful staff ready to help you find the right shoes.
Some of the styles available at Kids Kicks

There are over sixty styles available in the infant section at Kids Kicks.

The service here is incredible. I visited on a weekend so it was pretty chaotic with all the families in the store, but the staff here were calm, friendly and patient at all times. The owners have put some thought into this though – there’s a ticket dispenser at the front of the store which helps staff keep track of which customer to serve next. During busy times like weekends and back to school season, taking a ticket is critical. The store fills up quickly and it’s the only way to keep track of everyone. If you’re able to come on a weekday, mornings are usually a lot less busy.
Once my ticket number flashed up on the screen at the back of the store, I was ready to go with my list of must haves:  something flexible but strong enough for the outdoors, well constructed to protect growing feet and cute enough to match multiple outfits. There are a ton of styles and brands available here that meet all these needs. From a quick count, I saw over sixty styles available for boys and girls for sizes 0-8. Now here’s what I love about the staff – they took the time to measure my little one’s feet, direct me to appropriate styles and explain the features of each of the shoes that we were trying on. If I had questions about any of the products, they were able to answer my questions all while maintaining an aura of calm among a sea of stressed out parents. I was out the door in less than half an hour, and the only reason it took me so long was because I was debating between two styles. Kids Kicks really made the whole process enjoyable. Now that I’ve been here I can’t imagine going anywhere else.
Cost: Infant shoes at Kids Kicks range between $35-80 a pair.

First Impressions: Day Care Tours in Durham

First Impressions: Day Care Tours in Durham

Finding information on a prospective day care can be time consuming and exhausting for first time parents. Not only are there numerous factors to consider, but many providers are difficult to contact, aren’t upfront about fees and tours can be tough to schedule with more than one adult attending.

Starting next Tuesday, I’ll be posting a weekly series called First Impressions: Day Cares in Durham. In this series, I’ll be sharing my experiences touring day cares throughout the Durham region. These posts will include any information you can’t already find yourself online – fees, registration fees, opening hours, food menus, staff members and my take on the overall feel of the environment.

I’ll be looking for your input too – If you would like to request a post about a day care or even if you have information about a day care that you can share with other readers, I’d like to hear from you. As always, feel free to leave me a comment or send me an email at All tips, links and reviews are appreciated!