Find Quality Child Care and Early Learning

As a parent, you want the best for your child. Licensed high quality child care and early learning programs support safe and healthy growth and development. Learn about your child care options in the Parent Guide section below and apply for a program online.

What does quality licensed child care look like?

Quality child care is early learning. It means positive experiences and outcomes; it helps children prepare for school and beyond. Learn about the characteristics of a quality child care program below so you can ensure your child gets the most out of their experience.

Your child is safe and engaged.

image of child looking closely at flower outsideIn a licensed child care centre or home, programs must meet provincial standards around health, safety, and the ways children are encouraged to learn and grow. These programs are regularly inspected for compliance.

A quality child care program also lets children explore the world around them with their natural curiosity and exuberance. Being engaged in this way helps them learn to think creatively and to problem solve.

Your child can explore, interact and learn through play. 

Image of two children banging sticks on outdoor playground equipment.A quality child care program offers indoor and outdoor play spaces that are equipped to allow children to explore their ideas, investigate their theories, and interact with others. 

Educators support children by gently extending their level of thinking and understanding. This helps children gain knowledge and develop problem solving skills.

Your child is valued as active and competent.

Image of educator engaging in outdoor activity with child.Quality child care programs help each child build on their own unique strengths and abilities. When educators take the time to observe and listen to your child and engage with them as a partner in play, they gain insight into their interest and abilities.  This understanding really helps determine how to support and extend your child’s learning more effectively. 

Quality child care programs believe each child is competent, capable of complex thinking, and curious.  These programs celebrate all social, cultural, and linguistic perspectives.  This ensures all children feel included and can thrive.

Your child is guided by knowledgeable, caring educators.

Image of educator interacting with three children at the whiteboardEducators in quality child care develop positive, responsive relationships with children and their families. This involves daily communication between you and the educator to share important information about your child. Together you talk about your child's accomplishments and interests, and problem solve if you need to.

Educators develop supportive, nurturing routines that respond to your child’s needs. They provide materials and experiences that build on your child’s strengths and interests, and support their learning.

Educators enhance their learning to benefit your child. 

Image of educators gathered around table watching a video on how learning happens.Educators in quality child care are lifelong learners. They continually reflect on their own work and they work with each other to explore new ways to help children learn.

Did you know? Harvard University researchers say that in the first few years of life, more than one million neural connections are formed per second. These connections build the foundation on which all later learning, behaviour, and health depend.

For more information on what a quality child care program looks like, see the educator's guide, How Does Learning Happen? Ontario’s Pedagogy for the Early Years.

Explore your options

Browse the licensed child care options below to see the differences between them. This may help you choose a provider. The Ministry also has a list of common questions (available in 30 languages) to ask a provider when looking for child care.

Parent Guide to Licensed Quality Child Care in Waterloo Region

Learn more about your child care options. This guide is also available in عربي (Arabic), Français (French), हिंदी (Hindi), Ojbwe, Rohingya, Español (Spanish), اردو (Urdu), and українська (Ukrainian). 

If you are using Google Chrome, you can also use the Google Translate feature to translate this webpage.

  • To to the top of the webpage.
  • Look for "Translate +" located to the left of "What are you looking for?" search box.
  • Click the "+" sign and select a language from the drop down menu.
Step 1: Understanding Child Care in Waterloo Region
About this Guide

As a parent, you want the very best for your child. Searching for child care can feel overwhelming, but this guide has everything you need to know about finding the right program for you and your child.

Types of Care

There are different types of child care available in Waterloo Region.

Programs can be licensed or unlicensed. Options include centre-based or home-based child care. Child care programs are also available for school-age children before and after school.


Licensed Child Care

Licensed child care programs must meet provincial standards for health, safety and supporting the developmental needs of children (as outlined in the Child Care and Early Years Act, 2014). These programs are monitored and inspected for compliance by the Ministry of Education. Licensed programs have a green sign prominently displayed near the entrance of their centre or home.

Licensed child care operators and licensed school boards participating in Canada Wide Early Learning and Child Care (CWELCC) program offer reduced fees to families with children under six years of age. Visit the Region of Waterloo CWELCC website to see who is participating in the program.

Unlicensed Child Care

Unlicensed child care programs are not inspected by the Ministry of Education unless they receive a complaint and are not required to follow the Child Care and Early Years Act, 2014. Unlicensed care could include unlicensed home child care providers, a nanny, or a relative. Care is often provided in the caregivers home, but may be provided in your home.

Before and After School Programs

Licensed Before and After School Programs are available in most schools for children in Kindergarten to Grade 6. These programs are sometimes called Extended Day Programs and/or Youth Development Programs (grade 3-6 only). For a complete list of before and after school options, including locations and who operates the program, go to OneList Waterloo Region.

Depending who operates the program, there are different policies and procedures related to the registration and enrollment process. Each operator of these programs will have different hours of operation, policies and procedures related to changing your schedule, billing, cost of care, and notice of registration, withdrawal/end care. For the most up to date information, please contact the Licensed Child Care Provider or School Board.

Comparison of Child Care Options

Licensed Centre-Based Care

  • Licensed by the Ministry of Education
  • Operated by non-profit and for-profit organizations
  • Age-specific groups (infants/toddlers/preschoolers)
  • Children aged 0-12 years* cared for
  • Hours of operation are Monday to Friday, 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.*
  • Fee subsidy available
  • Reduced rates through CWELCC**
  • Special needs resources available
  • Programs must all employ a minimum number of Registered Early Childhood Educators (RECEs) as per the CCEYA. The percentage of RECEs varies from program to program.
  • Vulnerable sector checks required by all staff
  • Apply using the OneList Waterloo Region

Licensed Home-Based Care

  • Licensed under the Home Child Care Agency, not the individual provider
  • Operated by non-profit organizations and the Municipality
  • Small group (not age-specific), maximum of six
  • Children aged 0-12 years* cared for
  • Hours of operation are seven days a week, 24 hours a day*
  • Fee subsidy available
  • Reduced rates through CWELCC**
  • Special needs resources available
  • Home child care providers have various educational backgrounds that are approved by a licensed home child care agency
  • Licensed home child care agencies have consultants who are RECEs, who offer support to providers and monitor care for compliance with CCEYA
  • Vulnerable sector checks required for all adults living in the Caregiver's home, as well as frequent visitors
  • Apply using the OneList Waterloo Region

Unlicensed Home-Based Care

  • Not licensed by the Ministry of Education. They must disclose that they are not licensed
  • Operated by a relative, babysitter or nanny
  • Small group (not age specific), maximum of five
  • Children aged 0-12 years*
  • Hours of operation are seven days a week, 24 hours a day*
  • No fee subsidy available
  • No reduced rates through CWELCC**
  • No special needs resources available
  • Unknown staff qualifications
  • Unknown vulnerable sector checks
  • Apply directly with the provider

*Ages of children cared for, hours of operation, and group sizes may vary across programs and providers.

**Visit Canada Wide Early Learning and Child Care (CWELCC) for a list of licensed child care agencies in Waterloo Region participating in the program and offering reduced rates. 

 Step 2: Choosing a Program
Things to Consider

When choosing a program for your child, there are many things to consider. Some of these include:

  • Location
  • Cost
  • Hours of operation
  • Program philosophy/approach to learning
  • Group sizes
  • Cultural fit
  • Qualifications/training of educators/caregivers
  • Rate of Educator turnover
  • Program policies

It is recommended that you call the centre and book a visit so you can observe and ask questions.

  • Is the centre/home welcoming, clean and well maintained?
  • Is there an atmosphere of warmth and respect that will provide a sense of belonging for your child(ren)?
  • Are the educators/caregivers responsive to the needs of the children?
  • Are there a range of cultures and backgrounds among the staff?
  • Are the indoor and outdoor environments well equipped?
  • Does the environment allow children to investigate, imagine, think, create and solve problems?
  • Are the children actively engaged in learning through play?
  • Are there toys and learning materials that will engage your child?
  • Does the centre hire only Registered Early Childhood Educators (RECEs) or do they also employ untrained staff? How many RECEs per classroom?
  • How long have staff been employed at the centre?
  • Does the menu offer a variety of nutritious and culturally inclusive food options each day?
  • Does the program have policies that reinforce equity of access and inclusion for all children?

While visiting the centre, you can ask to see their latest Licensing Inspection by the Ministry of Education. You can also go on-line and check the centre's most recent Public Health Inspection.

Quality Matters!

High quality Early Years programs play an important role in healthy child development and improving quality of life for families. Licensed Child Care operators are working with Region of Waterloo to keep improving the quality of their services. The ongoing focus on improving program quality is supported by the Region of Waterloo’s Quality Initiatives team and Conestoga College’s Professional Resource Centre.

Each year all Licensed Child Care programs follow a continuous quality improvement cycle called Early Years Engage. The annual cycle starts by gathering information to reflect on areas that are working well and identify areas that need improvement.

Next, the Licensed Child Care programs each make commitments to work on concrete changes that to improve experiences, relationships, and environments that benefit children and families, leading to a higher quality of life. Early Years Engage is built on The Ministry of Education’s resource guide: How Does Learning Happen? Ontario's Pedagogy for the Early Years. This guide supports educators to look at the what they do every day and understand how their actions have an impact on children and their families in six key areas: 

  1. Establishing positive, responsive adult-child relationships;
  2. Providing inclusive learning environments and experiences that encourage exploration, play, and inquiry;
  3. Engaging children as co-learners along with families/caregivers, and others;
  4. Planning and creating environments as a “third teacher”;
  5. Using documentation to make the children’s thinking and the learning visible; and
  6. Participating in ongoing reflective practice and collaborative inquiry with others. 
Support for Black, Indigenous and/or Racialized Families

If you need help accessing early years services, such as applying for child care, child care subsidy, or special needs supports, reach out to an Early Years Navigator today to assist and provide support in accessing these services in Waterloo Region.

Early Years Navigators are available to support equity deserving families including Black, Indigenous and others who experience barriers accessing Early Years Child Care services. They can provide information about the Child Care options available, help you to set up an account on OneList and apply to licensed child care programs, provide information about child care subsidy and help you access other community resources including EarlyON drop in centres, Special Needs Resourcing support, Public Health and other community services. Find out more about Early Years Navigators.

 Step 3: Applying for Licensed Child Care and Before and After School Care

OneList Waterloo Region is a web-based program, where parents/guardians apply for licensed child care in Waterloo Region (including centre-based, home-based, and before and after school programs).

  • If you do not have access to a computer or mobile device (e.g. cell phone, tablet), you can visit a library, a community centre or the Welcome Space at a Region of Waterloo building to use a computer.
  • Licensed Child Care Operators receive the applications and they continue with the registration and enrollment process, when they have a space for your child.

Steps to apply for child care on OneList:

  • Go to
  • Create an account by registering using a personal email address and creating a password and follow the steps to search and find the programs that you would like to apply to.

Looking for a licensed child care centre?

  • Choose Waterloo Region Licensed Child Care (then Centre-based) Looking for Licensed home child care?
  • Choose Waterloo Region Licensed Child Care (then Home-based) Looking for before and/or after school care?
  • Click the link under “Looking for Before and After School Programs?” to see a listing of all the schools and who operates the school age program at each school.
  • Choose the corresponding, colour-coded button to start the registration process.
  • Keep your account up to date by logging in at least every 60 days. OneList accounts with no activity after 60 days receive an e-mail to notify them of the need to log in to keep their account active. 

Frequently Asked Questions about OneList

 Step 4: After You Have Applied for Child Care

Every child care program manages their own waitlist. Your position on their waitlist is based on several factors, such as:

  • Your application date
  • Your child’s age
  • Days / hours of care required
  • Programs may give priority to applications when (but not limited to):
    • A sibling is already enrolled
    • The applicant is a staff member
    • The family has been approved for child care subsidy
    • There is an agreement with an organization or learning institution to reserve child care spaces for their staff or students

OneList does not provide information about waitlist times, space availability or vacancies. To inquire about where your child is on a waitlist or when a space may be available, contact the programs directly.

If you no longer require care, please go into your account and remove your applications. 

Being Offered a Child Care Space

When there is a space available for your child at a program that you have applied to, the program will contact you to offer you the spot. Typically, programs need a response within 24 to 48 hours of making an offer, so be sure to check your e-mail regularly.

Once you have accepted a space, the program will require you to complete a registration package. Some programs may charge a registration fee or deposit, which may or may not be refundable.

When you apply to programs through OneList, you need to prioritize your top three applications. When you accept a space at a program, applications ranked below the one you accepted are removed from your account. Programs prioritized higher than the program you accepted, will remain on your account.

Child Care Costs

Child care fees vary from program to program. Fees are based on the age of the child, and sometimes on the number of hours, they attend.

With the introduction of the Canada Wide Early Learning and Child Care (CWELCC) program, families with children under six years of age enrolled in a child care program participating in CWELCC have reduced child care fees. Daily fees will be reduced to an average of $10/day by 2025. Visit the Region of Waterloo CWELCC website to see who is participating in the program.

Contact the child care centre, the home child care agency, or school board (or visit their website) for specific details on fees. In addition to the monthly fees, some programs may charge other fees, so it is important to ask about this ahead of time.


Additional Help Paying for Child Care

In addition to reduced fees through the CWELCC program, some families are also eligible for further financial support to help pay for child care. The Region of Waterloo, Child Care Subsidy program helps parents pay for licensed child care so they can go to work or school. Child Care Subsidy may cover all or part of a family’s child care costs.

To learn more about Child Care Subsidy, visit the Child Care Subsidy website or call 519-575-4400. You can also use the online calculator13.

Parents can apply for Child Care Subsidy online or over the phone by calling 519-575-4400. You can apply for Child Care Subsidy up to 16 weeks before starting care. Since wait times for licensed care may be longer than 16 weeks, you can apply for licensed care before submitting an application for Child Care Subsidy. 


Questions or Concerns About Your Child's Care?

Licenced Child Care

The first step is to talk to your child care educator/provider.

If they cannot resolve your issue, speak with the centre supervisor/home child care consultant.

If you still cannot resolve the issue, you may file a complaint with the Ministry of Education:

You can also share your concern/complaint with the Region of Waterloo Children's Services by calling 519-575-4400.


Waterloo Region District School Board (WRDSB) Extended Day Programs

For more information or questions (regarding Parent Handbook, policies, billing inquiries, tax receipts or schedule changes):


Phone: Extended Day Information Line at 519-570-003 ext. 4704

Website: WRDSB Extended Day website


Waterloo Catholic District School Board (WCDSB) Licensed Before/After School Programs

Please direct your questions or concerns to the Registered Early Childhood Educator (RECE) in the Extended Day Program.

For more information or questions (regarding Parent Handbook, policies, billing inquiries, tax receipts, schedules, etc.):


Phone: 519-578-3660

Website: WCDSB Extended Day webpage

Special Needs Supports

If you have concerns about your child's development, call the Special Needs Access Point (SNAP) at 519-514-SNAP, visit the Special Needs Access Point website, or email

SNAP is a single point of access for referrals to services and supports for children 0-12 years of age who are attending or planning to attend any licensed child care program or Before or After School Program within Waterloo Region (except School Board operated programs). The SNAP Resource Coordinator will contact you to discuss your concerns and explain what supports are available to help your child.

 Additional Resources
  1. Early Learning And Child Care Navigators - Early Learning and Child Care Navigators - EarlyON Child and Family Centre (
  2. Ministry of Education -
  3. OneList Waterloo Region
  4. Canada-Wide Early Learning and Child Care Program - Canada-Wide Early Learning - Region of Waterloo
  5. Questions to ask a Child Care Provider -
  6. Public Health Inspections -
  7. Characteristics of a Quality Child Care Program -
  8. Early Years Engage, a quality initiative, through the Region of Waterloo, to support child care operators in continuous quality improvement -
  9. The Ministry of Education resource guide: How Does Learning Happen? Ontario’s Pedagogy for the Early Years -
  10. Frequently Asked Questions about OneList - FAQs
  11. Ontario Child Care Tax Credit
  12. Region of Waterloo, Child Care Subsidy website -
  13. Region of Waterloo, fee subsidy calculator -
  14. Special Needs Access Point (SNAP)
  15. Family Compass Waterloo Region -
  16. Ministry of Education, complaints about child care -
  17. Waterloo Region District School Board (WRDSB) Extended Day Program
  18. Waterloo Catholic District School Board (WCDSB) Extended Day Program

Apply for licensed child care

OneList Waterloo Region is where you apply online for all licensed care in Waterloo Region. You can also apply for financial help to pay for child care, and special needs supports (if you have concerns about your child's development).

Apply for child care

Once your child(ren) are on a waitlist for a program, contact the program to ask questions and set up a tour. If you tour the program, look for a decal that shows it is licensed. Their licensing documents will also tell you things like how many children they can care for and the results of the Ministry's most recent licensing visit.

Need Help Applying?

If you need help applying for child care on OneList or for Child Care Subsidy, you can reach out to the Early Learning and Child Care (ELCC) Navigators through the YMCA at 519-741-8585 extension 3008 or visit the YMCA of Three Rivers - ELCC Navigators website.

Quality improvement

Continuous learning and growth is important for children and for early years partners. The Region's quality improvement program is centered on this belief. Early Years Engage helps child care and early learning programs take an ongoing approach to improving.

 Logo: Early Years Engage, Continuous quality improvement in Waterloo Region


Contact Us