At the Whatcom Family YMCA we believe that a play-based approach to learning is the key to creating a developmentally appropriate, child-centered curriculum that supports all learning styles, as well as supporting a child by encouraging a love for learning.

Within the structure of our daily schedule, we provide for child-initiated and child-directed periods of play, which help children engage in an in-depth play experience. Learning develops as children play, touch, manipulate, and experiment with materials, classmates and teachers.

Preschoolers, specifically, are building upon emerging language, social, and logical thinking skills. They often demand to be independent, but at the same time are in need of reassurance. Preschool at the Y is designed to help cultivate this growing independence with an increase of classroom activities to choose from, while promoting positive relationships between new friends and between teacher and student. Social-emotional development is often emphasized, helping children to manage their big emotions.  

Time for large and small group activities, directed and non-directed play, as well as quiet and active play is provided. Teachers in the classroom follow the children’s leads in exploring ideas and developing their capabilities. Children are seen as active learners, and curriculum is planned to help children explore their own interests and take ownership in what they learn.  We believe this sets the future learning through an enjoyable, positive first experience at school.



We are proud to be an early childhood program representing the YMCA. The Whatcom Family YMCA is an association of men, women, and children committed to strengthening communities through youth development, social responsibility, and healthy living. We serve our local community with programs for the spirit, mind, and body.

The Y provides enrichment opportunities for all ages, from babies to senior citizens and everyone in between.  Every day we work side-by-side with our neighbors to make sure everyone – regardless of age, income or background – can grow and thrive.



Most of our families are placed on waiting lists as soon as they learn when they’ll need care. Barkley and Downtown have separate waiting lists, so please make sure to get on both if you are interested!

Enrollment is generally taken from those lists, based on the date they were put on the list, weekly schedule, and birthdate. We do accept DSHS/Working Connections for payment in our programs, as well! 

Upon a guarantee of a spot, you will be given paperwork and asked to pay a deposit. The deposit is one half of a month’s tuition plus the registration fee, which is held until the time your family starts. This deposit is non-refundable.

All enrollment questions and procedures will be conducted with the program’s Director or Program Supervisor. Once your family is enrolled in our early childhood program, their spot will continue to progress through all our classrooms until they leave for kindergarten.



How old does my child have to be to participate?

The State of Washington has issued our license to care for children ages 30/36 months until about 4 years of age (The “Preschool” classroom for the downtown location, “Meadow” classroom for our Barkley location). At about 4 years of age, based on space and development, your child will be able to transition into our pre-kindergarten program!


Where is the care provided for my child?

Our Barkley location is on Rimland Drive in Barkley Village, just off Woburn Street (2415 Rimland Drive).  Barkley has one preschool classroom with a capacity of 20 children.

Our downtown location is in our main YMCA facility located on State Street in downtown Bellingham (1256 N State Street).  It’s located on the first floor, just past the service desk.  The downtown classroom has a capacity of 15 preschoolers.


Are your facilities licensed?

Yes, each of our classrooms is licensed by Washington State’s Department of Children, Youth, and Families. We have at least yearly monitoring visits by our licensor. In addition to meeting minimum licensing standards, we are an Early Achiever’s Participant.

Early Achievers is a quality-based rating system that is available statewide for providers to participate in. We are rated by data collectors at the University of Washington who look at our classroom environments, family supports, and teacher/child interactions. 


What is your child to teacher ratio?

Each preschool classroom has a ratio of 1 teacher for every 10 children.  The downtown location has a bit of a smaller ration because of its lower classroom size.


What are your hours?

Both the Barkley and Downtown locations are open Monday through Friday, 6:30 am to 6:00 pm.


What days during the year is your program closed?

All YMCA early childhood programs are closed on the following holidays:  New Year’s Day, Memorial Day, July 4th, Labor Day, Thanksgiving and the day after, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.  We reserve the right to close the day after/before July 4th or the day after Christmas Day if we anticipate low enrollment or the day falls close to a weekend.  

Additionally, each center closes for two full days per year for professional development.  Please speak with the center director for more specific information about which days this may be. 


What is the cost to families?

Preschool Classroom Rates (Effective February 1, 2021)

Preschool/Meadow (30/36 months to 4 years and potty trained)

5 days per week:  $1,181 per month

4 days per week:  $1,082 per month

3 days per week:  $816 per month

2 days per week:  $566 per month


*A $75 registration fee is assessed at enrollment and annually every February ($20 for each additional child).

*Barkley charges a $100 supply fee, per family, annually in July


Do you have a sibling discount?

At this time the YMCA does not offer a sibling discount.


Does my child have to be potty trained?

No. There is a slightly higher fee to be in preschool without being potty trained, but we recognize that some children aren’t developmentally ready to be potty trained until closer to 4. We do ask that children have had some experience sitting on the toilet and bring pull-up type diapers for their preschool experience.  


Do I have to be a member of the YMCA to be enrolled?

No! In fact, we offer family memberships to all of our early childhood families.  Each member of your immediate family can join the Y for free and use the facilities as long as you are participating in early childhood programs!


What types of meals and snacks are provided?

In both locations toddlers, preschoolers and pre-kindergarteners are served a healthy breakfast, lunch and afternoon snack based on USDA Childcare Food Program Standards, as well as YMCA HEPA standards. We offer meals full of fruits and vegetables, healthy proteins, and whole grains.

We work hard to provide foods that are not high in sugar. Preschool and Pre-K classrooms help children learn how to serve themselves foods, using appropriate utensils for serving and pitchers for pouring milk. Our meals are designed to help promote a family-like environment.  

If you have a child with food allergies or preferences, we may be able to adjust our menu to meet your needs.  If not, families are always allowed to bring food from home, as long as it meets all required nutritional standards.


Can I visit my child on my lunch break?

We always have an open-door policy for parents to come in and see their child for a short time during the day. In Preschool and Pre-K, because our day is very scheduled, we prefer parents to come in and volunteer for a special part of the day.

Sometimes parent visits can be unintentionally disruptive, and we want to make sure your visit is special!  Please let us know if there’s a special activity or field trip you’d like to help us with.


What will my child do during the day?

Children ages 3-4 years are just starting to develop stronger friendships and are beginning to understand the idea of a classroom community.  In this age group we introduce more whole group activities (such as circle time or a classroom meeting).

But not to worry, there are plenty of opportunities for small group and individual play as well. Teachers structure the day around meal and nap times, but also begin to implement classroom play with small group projects or activities (usually based upon what they’re learning about or on specific skill development). 

Children still engage in a large amount of large motor development. At our Barkley location, children have access to large playground spaces that are frequented multiple times per day. Our Downtown preschoolers start swimming in the small pool and rock climbing at age 3, as well as use the small outdoor play area on Forest Street.

We continue to refine new skills, such as potty training and working through conflict. Preschool is a safe place to practice new skills and learn from mistakes. It’s also a place where children can try new activities that they didn’t get to do in the toddler classrooms (cooking, science, field trips, and so on).

What methods are used by the staff to communicate?

Every day your child will receive a “daily report” that details all the important details of their day (napping schedule, meals, how they felt and what they did). Please feel free to talk to the teachers at any time about questions you may have.  Our teachers love getting to know the families in their care.  

If your child gets a bump/bruise while in our care, we will write an “Ouch Report” which will give you the details of what happened and any first aid that was provided.  Any serious injuries will warrant a call to parents during the day. All illnesses that emerge during the day will result in an illness report being sent home.

Both centers have Facebook pages for parent communication and will often send emails, letters home, or newsletters to inform parents about all the classroom news!


Will my child be safe at the Y?

We work very hard to make sure that every child is safe in our care. We do head counts very regularly, especially when transitioning between activities. In order to ensure best practice for child abuse prevention, children are never left one-on-one with a teacher privately.

Our Barkley facility uses key tags to get into the center. Each family is issued a fob to scan and get into the building. Our Downtown facility uses membership tags to get by the desk.  Anyone who would like to get into the classroom to pick up a child will need to present photo ID at the desk (at the office at Barkley), and in the classroom to the teacher.  

No one is ever allowed into the classrooms without proper clearance from parents, staff, or the State of Washington. Picture ID is checked for family/friends that are picking up and are not recognized by regular staff members.