The Municipality of Chatham-Kent’s new EarlyON Child and Family Centres are taking their programming outside this summer.

As a way to offer opportunities for families and children to experience “physical literacy” and explore the “Loose Parts Play” movement, the Municipality has been presenting ‘Pop Up Play in the Park’ experiences for families with children up to six years old.

“We set out large, loose parts such as cardboard boxes, pool noodles, buckets and wooden blocks along with building materials like rope and duct tape”, said Sharon Jackson, The Childcare Community Mentor who organizes these events. “We create a space where children are free to explore, create, destroy, negotiate and generally play as they please.”

At EarlyON’s first Pop Up in Thamesville’s Ferguson Park on June 9, babies experimented with their reflections using mirrors and balls while older children rolled tires down a hill and built everything from forts to a rocket ship. At the Tilbury event on July 24, held in the school yard of St. Joseph’s Catholic School, we set out ropes, buckets, chains, cardboard tubes and large water bottles, and saw children building pulley systems, teeter-totters, and one innovative child even made a zip-line!

“The EarlyON Program Planning is shaped by a document called How Does Learning Happen – Ontario’s Pedagogy for the Early Years”, said Carrie Myers, Supervisor of the EarlyON Child and Family Centres. “Through this pedagogy we believe that children are competent, capable of complex thinking, curious, and rich in potential. By enabling children to have these self-directed play experiences, we see them learning through their own imagination and creative problem solving, making meaning from their experiences.”

EarlyON will be hosting two more “Pop Up Play in the Park” experiences this month:

– Tecumseh Park, Stanley St. Chatham: Thursday, Aug. 16, 4:00-6:30pm

– Steinhoff Park, 155 Mary St. Wallaceburg: Tuesday, Aug. 21, 9:30am-12:00pm.

These events are free, however, we ask that parents register in advance at 1-866-720-7975 or online at

Families are also asked to please bring a re-fillable water bottle and dress for the weather. For information on the free EarlyON Drop-In programs for families with children up to 6 years old, please visit