The first day of May marks the start of Early Childhood Education Month, and southwest community members are recognizing the significance of early childhood learning and appreciating the many people who help make it possible.

As a show of appreciation for the hard work of their nearly 90 employees, Natural Wonders Early Learning Centres plan to host a barbeque for the staff members where they will receive generously donated gifts.

Sheila Paradis, executive director at Natural Wonders Early Learning Centres, says that they have six sites in four different locations that focus on inclusivity and building foundations in the children's lives.

"Our Early Learning Centres have been in the community since 1976 when they were first incorporated," she said. "We work hard to reduce risks and increase self-regulation and resiliency."

Natural Wonders features play areas both inside and outside their centres and has a diverse lineup of experienced ECEs from levels one - to three who have been highly educated and trained.

"A significant amount of quality research tells us that the first 2,000 days of a child's life, from conception to age five, are a critical time for physical, cognitive, social, and emotional health and wellbeing and will have a significant impact throughout life," said Paradis. "Children from high-quality early learning centres have significantly higher levels of achievement by the age of 15, reduced adolescent pregnancies and involvement with the criminal justice system,"

"and reduced risk of drug and alcohol use, anti-social and violent behaviours, even things like high blood pressure, heart disease, and premature aging and memory loss."

Drew Weber is the chair of the board at Natural Wonders Early Learning Centres as well as a local parent who relies on Natural Wonders as a daycare and safe place to learn. 

"As a parent, the reason I invest in early learning is because I've seen the benefit in my home," added Weber. "I've noticed a significant difference in the quality of care and development I've seen at the home level from my youngest kid, who has been at Natural Wonders for multiple years now."

Paradis notes that the ministries have made significant contributions to fund and support ECEs and the services they provide.

"It is so important for children to be children and get to have safe places to play and grow," Paradis concluded.