It is our great pleasure  to share Carly’s wonderful program with you. She is such an inspiration to the early learning community! The Owl’s Nest: Early Development Centre operates in Palmerston, Ontario.

Facebook: @theowlsnestedc

What made you decide to open a home child care program?

For a decade I passionately taught as an Ontario Certified Teacher. I absolutely loved teaching with every ounce of my soul and was constantly learning, bettering my practice and leading workshops. I lived for teaching and child development and fell in love with child-led learning and the Reggio approach to learning and honouring the child. My first pregnancy led to a new level of growth for me, not only in growing a human, but personally as well. Collaborating with our wonderful midwife and the process of informed choice opened a new window and offered a new perspective on how we as adults have choices and that there are other pathways. I felt invigorated, a little overwhelmed and excited that not only had my birth and child rearing options expanded but so did my idea of teaching. Within the first year of our sons birth I knew I needed to make a change. I didn’t want to stop teaching-It was my passion but I also knew I needed to be a part of a bigger change in our community and for my own children. I wanted to see a shift from conventional learning to an approach that trusts children as learners and knows how to foster growth without interfering. I wanted to see children growing and learning life skills that will help them and the earth in order to ensure a better future for all. I wished to provide children with such support and trust that they felt safe to be their true inquisitive selves without self doubt. And most of all I wanted to raise children who didn’t merely “survive” childhood or “turn out ok”; ones that blossomed and really knew themselves, how to handle their emotions and self-regulate from an early age so that they could be who they are without recovery. With the unwavering support of my husband and some ups and downs along the way, we formulated the start of The Owl’s Nest: Early Development Centre. Starting as a nature based childcare in our home we focused on our values: child-led nature play with a focus on honouring play, the development of each child, and the seed to feed process- all full of rich social experiences. It took a leap of faith to get here but wonderful things happen outside our comfort zones. As we evolve we starting to grow into an alternative school that can provide a more modern and intuitive approach to individualized education.

What (if any) educational philosophies influenced your program?

My program is influenced by my education, experience, a touch of Montessori and Waldorf principles and significantly by the Reggio Emilia approach, which is an educational philosophy focused on preschool and primary education. It is a child-centred approach that utilized self-directed, experiential learning in a relationship-driven environment. The focus being on community building, respect for the child as well as the process, exploration, and discovery through a self-guided curriculum.

What’s your absolute favourite part of the job?

My favourite part of my work is being the change I hope to see in the world and seeing the growth and joy of learning in all the children I care for.

What would you say is the best part of your program?

The children say it best, “the clay, sand, swing, mud kitchen, snow, art, building, story time, friends”. The best part of our program is our rich experiences; both in opportunities to play in different and unrestricted ways that children may not play at home (garden, sand, clay, art mediums, etc) and the social aspects and connections that make their experiences even more meaningful. We have a very holistic approach that allows for learning to naturally happen through play and the experiences. Children learn reading, writing, math and sciences throughout their day and in self-initiated (supported by an educator fostering inquiries) ways to create truly authentic pathways and opportunities for further growth.

Where do you find inspiration for programming and activities?

My inspiration comes from the children which is the beauty of a child-led approach. Listening to them and their play always gives ideas to new pathways and levels that I can take my programming and their learning to. I also find inspiration in slowing down for myself, playing alongside them and being outside for long periods of time each day together. Also, Pinterest and other wonderful educators give me ideas too once I have a pathway.

What’s the most popular item on your menu? Share a recipe!

I strongly believe in traditions, routines and how they are rooted in food and our connections. We have a weekly schedule that we follow and it’s some of our simple more ritualistic menu items that are the most popular.

  1. Tea and Treat Thursday’s favourite is fruit kabobs. Simply stack various berries and fruit onto a wooden skewer and it is instant novelty. Bonus, add loose fruit to the children’s plates for an added fine motor activity (they like to try making their own too).
  2. Popcorn Friday’s

Every Friday we end our week with organic popcorn (some that we even grew) popped in coconut oil and Himalayan pink salt and have a picnic together with books in the afternoon.

Best quote from the children you have heard to date:

“The toast has a peanut butter wedgie”-referring to the peanut butter last not being cut through all of the way.

Your favourite quote about child care, early learning, play, or children:


Thank you for sharing a bit about your wonderful program with us!