Early Childhood Education Centre

Child playing with stencils.

A child painting.


Program philosophy

The Early Childhood Education Centre (ECEC) was established in 1974 by the Psychology Department of the University of Waterloo. The ECEC is a research facility for the ongoing study of child development with observational and interactive research conducted by faculty members, graduate students and undergrad students. We provide a top quality preschool program to the University community as well as to the larger community of the Region of Waterloo.

The ECEC is influenced by traditional and contemporary theorists, in child development and education. We provide a positive, warm and nurturing climate where meaningful learning can take place. The ECEC is a child centred, family focused community where the strengths and uniqueness of individuals are valued and respected. Children are seen as curious, competent human beings who are intrinsically motivated to learn. They are capable of making choices and becoming deeply engaged in constructing their own knowledge. Within our play-based, hands-on environment learning takes place in a social context as the child explores materials, asks questions, makes predictions, experiments and assesses outcomes.

A child cutting paper with a scissor.

We believe that children learn in a variety of ways and therefore we encourage them to draw from a wide range of resources including past experiences, their surroundings, their peers and the adults they encounter.

We recognize that children need to develop and grow emotionally, physically, socially, creatively and cognitively. At the ECEC we offer experiences in dramatic (pretend) play, early literacy, art, emergent numeracy, outdoor play, science, games and music. We support the development of self-help skills and the awareness of one's place in a socio-cultural context. Equal value is given to all aspects of development. We offer a balanced curriculum with opportunities for small and large group activities, active and quiet play, structured and unstructured times and individual experiences as well as peer interactions.

Staff reading a story book to kids.

At the ECEC, we foster strong reciprocal relationships between adults and children. We are all learning together. Teachers take responsibility for establishing the environment based on the ongoing input of the children. Teachers highlight the links between the resources in the environment and the pursuits of the children. By observing, questioning, supporting and modelling, teachers challenge and encourage children, sharing in their enthusiasm and excitement. Activities can be teacher planned, child initiated, spontaneous, self-guided, project based and emergent. A strong component of our program is the development of perspective taking, including understanding another person's thoughts and feelings as well as the development of social problem solving skills including helping, turn-taking, co-operating with others and sharing.

Two kids and a staff making eye contacts.