Pre-K Play & Learn expands to North Muskoka daycares in 2023

Smiling woman and group of children seated on a classroom floor around a bin of toys.

Emily Kouyoumjian (centre right), a Resource Consultant with Community Living Huntsville, leads children through creating a marble run. The activity involves working together quickly to match shapes and build the structure, and then taking turns to drop marbles into the run. Photo by Community Living Huntsville.

Children in a bustling daycare classroom quickly gathered around tables filled with colourful activities to have fun – and build skills for kindergarten.

Yvonne Bush, a Resource Consultant with Community Living Huntsville, launched the not-for-profit organization’s Pre-K Play & Learn Program in 2022. The eight-week program of play-based skill-building activities is designed to help children and families discover and build skills and confidence as they get ready for the move to kindergarten.

Previously, the program was offered as one-on-one sessions between families and Bush. Thinking for some time about creating the program, Bush was able to focus on developing it during the COVID-19 pandemic. She had always intended the program for group settings; however, pandemic restrictions led to the program launching as one-on-one sessions in its first year as a trial.

Children seated on a classroom floor sorting through a bin of toys.

Children play and learn together as they engage in a variety of 15-minute group activities through a one-hour session. Photo by Community Living Huntsville.

In 2023, Bush and her colleague, Emily Kouyoumjian, a fellow Resource Consultant with Community Living Huntsville, were able to adapt the program to offer it for group settings in daycare classrooms. Bush and Kouyoumjian worked with educators in three daycares – Huntsville Co-Op Daycare, Huntsville Children’s Place Child Care Centre, and a licensed home-based daycare in Port Sydney – to provide the eight-week program at each location to children with and without disabilities.

Bush said she enjoyed the new group-learning format. “In a group setting, you add social interaction, which is a big part of school,” she said. “Group activities also had us sitting at tables, doing activities together, and that is more like a school setting, too.”

The new version of the program also reached more children. Seven children and their families participated in 2022. Nearly 40 children, plus their educators and families, participated in 2023.

2 children playing with plastic boats that are floating in white tubs filled with water. an adult is nearby.

Yvonne Bush (right), a Resource Consultant with Community Living Huntsville, says a small-group format for Pre-K Play & Learn introduces children to kindergarten-style learning environments as they prepare for school in September. Photo by Community Living Huntsville.

Each weekly one-hour session introduced fun, hands-on, skills-building activities that focused on Belonging, Engagement, Well-Being, and Expression. Bush had designed each activity around the kindergarten learning framework, which is based on the Early Years developmental document for children ages 0 to 6. The entire program linked to school curriculum.

Bush or Kouyoumjian would set up the activities at different stations, and then educators would lead small groups of children through their stations’ activities for 15 minutes, at which point the groups would rotate to the next station.

After each session, activity kits and instructions were left with children and educators, or sent home to families, so they could practice that week’s skills, like self-help, emotions, math, art, and literacy.

“The educators were very excited about it,” said Bush. “It gave them an opportunity – because it was a small group of six children or fewer at a table – to observe some of the children’s skills, like scissor skills or other fine motor skills, that may not be as obvious in a larger group.”

Kouyoumjian said the educators were impressed not only with the variety of activity stations and careful organization of the sessions, but also with the children’s interest and focus: “I remember one educator said, ‘Wow, they are very engaged,’” she said.

3 children seated at a classroom table stacking small, colourful blocks.

Children practice a variety of skills related to self-help, emotions, math, art, literacy, and more through a series of engaging small-group activities. Photo by Community Living Huntsville.

The program complemented the work educators were already doing with the children and often prompted new ideas for educators and families, too.

“Activities like opening containers – a lunch pail or things like that – had some parents saying, ‘Oh, that might be a good thing to start working on because at school they are going to need to know how to do that,’” said Kouyoumjian. “It could have been things classrooms and families were already doing, like opening containers, but if one activity is only about opening containers of varying sizes, it opened their eyes a bit.”

Children who completed the program celebrated with graduation ceremonies that included certificates, graduation caps, treats, and games.

Plans are underway to expand Pre-K Play & Learn to more locations in 2024. Families and childcare centres interested in more information can contact Yvonne Bush at or Emily Kouyoumjian at

Community Living Huntsville is a not-for-profit, registered charity that supports more than 300 children and adults, and their families, in North Muskoka. Want to learn more about our Children and Youth Services team and how we can support your family? Visit

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