With its many playgrounds, parks and recreational facilities, the Leaside area is popular with young families and the early childhood education centres that serve them.
One such centre is ABC Academy Davisville Village, located at the corner of Balliol and Bayview. It opened in 2011 as part of a small ABC Academy group, which aims to provide both active lifestyle and academic focus, and offers other locations in Wanless Park, the Beaches and Leaside on McRae. All were acquired by BrightPath Kids childcare centres in 2018 when the company expanded into Toronto.
Centre director Brianne Leitch has worked at all four of the ABC Academy locations in various roles from centre support and educator to management. She says that this location was a natural choice, given the thriving family-oriented community, proximity to the Bayview strip and large space for outdoor learning.
ABC Davisville offers infant (3 to 18 months), toddler (18 to 30 months) and preschool (2.5 to 4 years) programs. And the academy, despite its name, is not just about learning the ABCs.
The centre features an inquiry-based curriculum with specific learning goals in the four areas of Play, Skill, Language and Expression, and Academics. Infants “learn to play” while participating in activities that engage their senses, encourage communication and the use of objects. Toddlers “play to learn” while playing with peers, developing gross motor and self-help skills, increasing communication skills and learning to problem-solve.
Preschoolers are introduced to learning through a combination of play and academics. They focus on math and science in the morning and language and literacy in the afternoon. They also practise social skills like collaborating to prepare for kindergarten.
Because of Covid restrictions, their extracurricular programming has moved to a virtual platform to reduce the number of visitors in the building. The activities include dance, music and yoga classes, pre-recorded by instructors at BrightPath Kids, and a weekly interactive French program.
Another feature of the centre is a “badge program that highlights naturally occurring milestones in each child’s development,” explains Brianne. The badges are given for achievements like taking a first step, counting to 10 or singing O Canada. There are also special badges for other events and activities. The children receive pennants with all of their badges as mementos on their last day.
Part of the ABC Academy mission is valuing the importance of local community involvement and helping the less fortunate in activities such as the Terry Fox Walk, food and toy drives and school fairs. The centre plans to renew these roles when it becomes possible to do so.
In the meantime, ABC Davisville continues to flourish in the community with parents referring their families and friends to the centre and enrolling younger siblings. As Brianne says, the parents appreciate the centre’s “blend of child-directed and skill-building learning, the nurturing staff and their JK preparation program where the graduates learn specific skills for the transition to kindergarten.” The staff look forward to serving the community by sparking curiosity and inspiring a love of learning in children for years to come.