Early Childhood (0-5 years old)

Early childhood is a crucial moment in the development of each child. From birth until 5 years old, children rapidly progress in all aspects of their lives, notably physically, emotionally, socially, and intellectually. This phase in the life of a child is a privileged period for establishing solid foundations that will support them throughout their life.

On this page, we will define the key terms you will find on the site. We will explore subjects such as the different types of childcare services, licensed or not. Our objective is to provide an accessible resource to help you navigate the complex world of early childhood education and to make clear decisions for your children.

The different types of childcare services

Educational Childcare Service

An educational childcare service is an organization which offers educational and care programs for children 0 to 12 years old. These programs were conceived to support the physical, mental, and emotional development of children and to prepare them for primary school.

Several types of educational childcare services exist: early learning childcare services (daycare), preschools, family resource centres, educational family day homes, and educational out-of-school childcare services (6 to 12 years old). Each of these types of services may be adapted to the specific needs of children and families, by function of their age, their level of development and their interests.

Educational childcare services are generally directed by early childhood professionals, as well as educators, who are trained to support the development of children of that age. They also offer support to parents and families by providing them with resources and counsel to favour the development of their children.

Educational childcare services are essential to ensure the well-being, safety, and health of children as well as offering them a clean living environment to stimulate their development in all areas, from their birth to the day they start school, to prevent the later appearance of learning, behavioral, or social difficulties. Educational childcare services help parents to maintain their professional and family lives.

Early Learning Childcare Services (0 to 5 Years)

An early learning childcare service is often situated within a school or in a commercial location. They have an administrative team and a team of early childhood professionals. The service gathers children by age group. They may also have a cook. Everything is very structured.

The service only closes during statutory holidays. During the educators’ vacations or absences, substitutes keep the services open.

Other names often used: daycare, childcare service, ECC

Educational Family Day Homes

In these services, there is often only one provider who is responsible for a maximum of 6 children, of which 2 can be infants of less than 18 months old. If the provider wishes to be assisted by another adult, they may take in up to 9 children. It is therefore a multi-age context where older children become models for the younger children, helping them to learn.

Your child remains in contact with the same provider/educator throughout their entire preschool journey, thereby maximizing the stability offered to them. It is a reassuring environment that is often compared to a second home for the child.

Other names often used: nanny, home daycare, family daycare


Preschool is an educational program for children from 2 years and 8 months old and up which is managed by a parents society made up of volunteer parents. It is a living environment, a place of discovery, development and physical, intellectual, emotional, and social learning. Preschool seeks to be complementary to the family environment.

By attending preschool, the child prepares for school by:

  • Building their emotional security with children of the same age in greater numbers
  • Learning to take their place with children of the same age – their status within the group is to be built
  • Gradually get used to living in an environment that resembles that of the school

The preschool program aims for the child’s global development, democratic interventions, and educational continuity. Alberta preschools follow the government’s Flight curriculum – Play, Participation, Possibilities.

Just like kindergarten, preschool is not mandatory. It is up to families to decide if they want to register their child or not.

Families that choose to register their child in preschool may make a choice between a full-day or half-day program, based on what is offered by their school. If a full-time program is offered in their school, parents may decide to register their child in preschool for half a day, and to a childcare service for the other half of the day.

Preschools are managed by the Child Care Licensing Regulation of the Alberta Human Services and must comply with all regulations stemming from it.

Governmental Institutions Supporting Early Childhood in Alberta

Licensed vs. Unlicensed Services

In Alberta, there are 2 types of childcare services by virtue of the laws and regulations: licensed and unlicensed. This allows parents to easily know which options are regulated by the government and which ones are not.

Licensed Services

These include educational childcare services in facilities and educational family day homes.

Educational Childcare Service

The Government of Alberta works in collaboration with licensed programs by overseeing and inspecting their centres to ensure that they are respecting program health, safety, and quality standards for the children in their care by virtue of the Early Learning and Child Care Act.

Educational Family Day Home

The provider is trained by a licensed agency (family day home agency) to offer educational child care services from their home.

Licensed agencies help by offering the staff a training network, resources, and assistance. The agencies provide assurance for parents who use the day homes by overseeing each program to ensure they are respecting program health, safety, and quality standards for the children in their care, as prescribed by the family day home standards and the law.

Unlicensed Services

Unlicensed childcare programs may provide childcare services for a maximum of 6 children, without counting their own, at any moment. Unlicensed providers are not overseen by the Government of Alberta or licensed agencies.

Some examples:

  • babysitters/nannies
  • private family day homes
  • informal arrangements with friends
  • neighbours or family
Government Subsidies

In Alberta, the government has put in place a financial aid system to help low-income families.

Admissible families may request child care subsidies for the care of children aged 0 to 6th grade, registered to a:

  • Licensed educational childcare service
  • Educational family day home supervised by a licensed agency
  • Group family child care centre

Subsidy rates vary according to the age of the child, the family’s revenue, the childcare program and number of hours a child attends it each month.

Affordability Subsidies

Since January 2022, childcare services in Alberta became more affordable by virtue of the new federal-provincial accord on childcare services. Fees were reduced in two ways: increased subsidies and accessibility subsidies.

Accessibility subsidies are paid directly to the managers of educational early childhood services that they may further reduce fees for all families. Parents do not need to make a request to benefit from the reduction provided by these subsidies.


Check the government website to learn more.

Early Childhood Curriculum - Flight

This framework is meant for early childhood professional staff who use it in their daily work with young children and their families in Alberta.

Flight represents the brilliant, imaginative, fluid, and organic work that happens in the children’s daily program. It encourages reflexivity and the freedom of thought, and motivates growth, change, and innovation, uniting us all in a common goal: helping the children of Alberta as powerful learners and citizens, to take flight.

A pedagogical framework for educational childcare services differs from a traditional curriculum. In the case of early childhood, the curriculum takes on the form of holistic general objectives rather than specific results in each area. Pedagogical frameworks for these services see in the everyday experiences of children the foundation for the curriculum’s construction.

The early childhood curriculum is integrated in the daily experiences of the children with their family and in local communities.

In the learning and care for young children, the program is based on the unique character of childhood, by considering learning and care with general holistic objectives for the learning and development of the children, and by emphasizing the importance of play, relationships, and family diversity. Flight is based on the processes involved in our work and the decisions we make each day, rather than determining the content of what the children will learn, as was often suggested in traditional ideas for the program. The content of what the children will learn will continue to be developed in terms of the interests and daily experiences of the children.

The Early Learning and Child Care Act and regulation improves the quality and safety in licensed programs, provides more information and transparency for parents and rationalize and modernize the processes for license grants so that licensed providers have more time to support the children.

Please consult the flightframework.ca website to know more.


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