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Best Start

What we know now - The Importance of Early Child Development

The early years from conception to age 6 have the most influence of any time in the life cycle on brain development and subsequent learning, behaviours and health1 . Children who are ready to learn when they start school are more likely to complete school, find employment and make positive contributions to society2.When we support our youngest children, society reaps the benefits over many years as those children develop into healthy, educated, confident and productive adults. Investing in children is an investment in Ontario's future. The rates of return on human capital investment are greatest in the early years of a child's life3.

1 McCain, Mustard, 1999; 2 Hertzman and Keating, 1999;
3 Carneiro & Heckman, 2003.

What's the Difference Between Child Care and Preschool?

Is it child care or day care or preschool or pre-k?!

In fact, all of these terms describe early care and education programs for young children. Regardless of what they are called, these services must all be safe, affordable, developmentally appropriate, and high quality. The term 'Child Care' usually refers to early care and education provided for children from birth through school-age. There are many forms of child care (or day care), including in-home child care, licensed and unlicensed, care by relatives, and center-based child care. The term 'Preschool' or 'Pre-K' is often used to describe early care and education programs that help prepare three and four year olds to enter kindergarten ready to succeed. These programs are usually conducted in group settings and include a curriculum focused on early literacy and cognitive, social, and emotional development.

Child Care - Why It's Important.

In today's world, most parents work outside of the home. This means that most children under age 6 spend at least part of their time in the care of someone other than their parents. Children's earliest experiences and their relationships with their caregivers have a profound impact on the way their brains develop, and can affect their ability to learn and succeed in school and later in life. Participation in early learning opportunities, be it through child care or at home with a parent, can enhance cognitive skills, language ability, vocabulary, short-term memory and attention span.

Source: Parents Action for Children

What is Best Start?

At its inception the Best Start Initiative involved a massive expansion of quality and affordable child care and investments in every child's healthy early development - all in convenient and easily accessible locations for parents.

But it is much more than that.

Best Start is also a partnership with parents and families, created in response to the clear message that Ontario's young children and their families need more integrated and accessible services, more high quality, regulated child care spaces, and more subsidies so that more families can access those spaces. It is a long-term strategy to be implemented over 10 years and which began with an expansion of child care spaces in 2005.

The Best Start initiative envisions a comprehensive evidence-informed system of services that seamlessly support families with children from birth through their transition into Grade 1. These services run the gamut from newborn and infant screening to hearing programs to speech and language therapy that help identify and provide support to children who need extra help for healthy early development. They include quality child care, public health, and parenting programs that help parents help their children to be successful in school. And they put families in touch with other services that they might need.

Best Start Components

  • A massive expansion of child care, predominantly in Ontario's publicly funded schools; creating more choice with respect to child care options. In 2005-2006, Best Start capital and operational start up funds supported the addition of 146 new licensed child care spaces for children birth to six years throughout Leeds and Grenville.
  • More child care subsidies so that more families can access quality, affordable child care spaces.
  • Best Start Child and Family Centres that provide one-stop services for families with children birth to twelve years of age in communities across Ontario.
  • Universal newborn screening and support by public health nurses and ongoing services to identify needs early and provide vital developmental supports sooner.
  • A comprehensive 18-month well baby checkup.
  • The Best Start Network of 30 individuals representing parents, school boards, child care operators, health unit, child care system manager, and a range of children's services providers was established in 2005 and continues to exist as a sub-committee of the community collaborative, Every Kid in Our Communities. The Network continues to plan for and implement the longterm Best Start Vision.

Additional Resources, Reading and Links