Overview

The Child Care and Early Years Act (CCEYA), 2014 establishes the rules for child care and early years programs in Ontario to:

  • support the health and safety of children
  • provide for oversight of providers
  • help parents make informed choices about child care options

Under the act, programs where the primary purpose is to support skill-based sports and recreation are not considered child care and do not require a licence. Examples include occasional programs and services of short duration and frequency, such as:

  • one hour lessons (for example, dance, music, swimming)
  • team sports (for example, hockey practice and games)
  • club activities that are offered once a week (for example, Girl Guides, 4-H)

Where the primary purpose is to provide child care, such as an after-school program that is offered three to five days a week or a half day program for children under the age of four, these programs must operate as:

  • a licensed child care centre
  • an unlicensed child care provider
  • an authorized recreational and skill building program (where the provider is eligible)

Find out how we determine the primary purpose of a program.

Authorized recreational and skill building programs

Where recreation is a complementary purpose of child care, certain programs can operate without a licence as an authorized recreational and skill building program:

  • for up to three hours
  • once a day

Under the CCEYA, an authorized recreational and skill building program can serve children ages four and up (or turning four by the end of the year if the program is offered after the start of the school year) if it meets the provisions set out in section 6(4) of the CCEYA, and criteria set out in regulation.

Authorized recreation providers

An authorized recreational and skill building program must be one of the following:

Extended hours and non-instructional days

Some authorized recreational and skill building providers can operate before and after school programs with expanded hours as well as on non-instructional days during the school year.

With approval from the Ministry of Education, these providers can operate with extended hours and on non-instructional days:

  • a member of YMCA Canada or Boys and Girls Clubs of Canada
  • a local service system manager, municipality or First Nation
  • a Friendship Centre that is a member of the Ontario Federation of Indigenous Friendship Centres
  • an organization delivering Ontario’s After School Program funded by the Ministry of Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture Industries

How to apply

The Ministry of Education will allow a limited number of before and after school spaces to operate with enhanced hours and will work with providers to monitor and evaluate the impact of enhanced hours on the child care and early years system.

The application process for eligible authorized recreational and skill building providers who wish to operate with expanded hours in a new or existing program is now closed.

Determining the primary purpose of a program

The Ministry of Education reviews the following factors to determine whether or not the primary purpose of a program is recreation or child care:

  • the hours of operation including the frequency and duration of the program offered
  • the ages of the children being served
  • whether or not transportation is provided to and/or from the program on behalf of the parent
  • the type of facility, equipment and furnishings used to support the program
  • the programming content including how time is dedicated to recreation and care
  • whether registration and administration of the program is coordinated with one or more programs by the same provider

There may be some exceptional circumstances where a program operates every day for multiple hours and is not considered child care (for example, religious study).

To find out if a program falls under the recreation exemption, email: uccv@ontario.ca

Examples

Programs that operate every day or every weekday for the same group of children are generally not considered to have a primary purpose of recreation. Drop-in programs for children ages four and up that operate every day after school may be considered child care. These programs could operate if they are licensed as a child care centre or meet the conditions set out under the CCEYA and regulations as an authorized recreational and skill building program.

Scenario 1:

  • program: Art for Kids
  • days: program operates Saturdays (once a week)
  • time: 1:00 – 2:30 p.m.
  • ages of children: three to six years
  • transportation: not provided by the program
  • program description, facilities and equipment: children make artistic creations through painting, drawing, collage and dough. Children express themselves and explore their creativity in these activities and learning basic steps in arts and crafts.
  • administration and coordination of programs: not coordinated with any other program
  • assessment: may be exempt as a recreational program

Scenario 2:

  • program: Nature Fun!
  • days: Tuesdays and Thursdays (twice a week)
  • time: 10:00 a.m. – noon
  • ages of children: three to five years of age
  • transportation: not provided by the program
  • program description, facilities and equipment: children explore nature and discover the interesting plants and animals in the local park and woods. Find bugs, put your hands in the dirt and soil, and learn about the different species that live with us.
  • administration and coordination of programs: not coordinated with any other program
  • assessment: may be exempt as a recreational program

Scenario 3:

  • program: after school martial arts program
  • days: operates Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays
  • time: from school dismissal to 6:00 p.m. (no more than three hours)
  • ages of children: four to 12 years of age
  • transportation: program arranges for children to be picked up from school to the Martial Arts Club
  • program description, facilities and equipment: children are picked up from school and taken to a martial arts club where they are provided with a snack, given time to do their homework and take part in martial arts classes
  • administration and coordination of programs: not coordinated with any other program
  • assessment: must be licensed child care or authorized recreational and skill building program

Scenario 4:

  • program: before and after school care
  • days: operates Monday to Friday
  • time: before and after school (1.5 hours in the morning, three hours after school)
  • ages of children: four and up
  • transportation: not provided by the program
  • program description, facilities and equipment: children participate in activities such as active play (sports, dancing) in the gym or playground, listening to stories, engaging in arts and crafts, and playing board games
  • administration and coordination of programs: not coordinated with any other program
  • assessment: must be licensed child care

Scenario 5:

  • programs: Adventure Time! and Nature Fun!
  • days: Monday to Thursday (Adventure Time! operates Mondays and Wednesdays and Nature Fun! operates Tuesdays and Thursdays)
  • time: 10:00 a.m. – noon
  • ages of children: three to five years of age
  • transportation: not provided by either program
  • program descriptions: Adventure Time! children engage in outdoor themed activities and learn skills and practices that might come in handy when camping. Nature Fun! children explore nature and discover the interesting plants and animals in the local park and woods
  • facilities and equipment: programs are located at the same premises
  • administration and coordination of programs: the two programs (Adventure Time! and Nature Fun!) share coordination and administration to offer care and supervision over consecutive days
  • assessment: must be licensed child care

Note: Nature Fun!, which may be exempt as a recreational program in scenario two, is no longer exempt in the scenario above. This temporary care and supervision may be considered one program for the purposes of ministry assessment where:

  • a child is receiving temporary care and supervision at the same premises through different programs in a day, or over a series of consecutive days
  • these programs are operated by the same provider
  • administrative functions are coordinated/shared between the programs

Contact us

If you have questions about getting a licence to operate child care:

If you have questions or concerns about unlicensed child care or exemptions under the CCEYA:

Legal advice

Please be advised that we cannot provide legal advice or interpret the legislation for your business. This information is not legal advice and should not be relied on as such. It is the responsibility of the provider to ensure compliance with legislation. If you require assistance with respect to the interpretation of the legislation and its potential application in specific circumstances, please contact your legal counsel.

Inspections

This information does not limit ministry inspectors’ ability to apply and enforce the Child Care and Early Years Act, 2014 and O. Reg 137/15. Inspectors will apply their judgment to the situation that presents itself. This guide does not restrict their discretion.

Updated: August 06, 2021
Published: June 23, 2021