At the YMCA we believe that toddler-age children learn through play in both their learning experiences and their environment. Active exploration of concrete materials will help children use a multisensory approach to learning about the world around them. Toddlers need time for uninterrupted play, with the freedom to explore and interact with other participants and caregivers in the classroom environment.

Additionally, toddlers thrive off of consistent daily routines, caregivers, and expectations. Knowing when to expect their meals and naps, who will be their primary caregiver(s), and what will happen when they test their limits make toddlers feel safe in their environment. When children feel safe, they are more likely to take risks in their learning, venturing farther and experimenting further with the materials they have access to.

Toddlers are consistently learning about themselves, other, and how to relate to each other. During this period of their lives, they are learning so many skills! Potty training, new words and conversational language skills, playing alongside peers and sharing toys, the beginnings of problem solving, and more advanced gross motor skills, just to name a few! Learning new skills can be frustrating, and working through these emotions and frustrations, while coping with new feelings can be exhausting. Encouragement and positive reinforcement from caregivers is key during this period of development.  



We are proud to be an early childhood program representing the YMCA. The Whatcom Family YMCA is a powerful 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, Heart House, 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 12 months through 30 months of age (Toddler I, or Sunshine (Barkley), is 12-24 months; Toddler 2, or Treehouse (Barkley) is 24-30/36 months).  Between 30-36 months of age, based on space and development, your child will be able to transition into our preschool program!


Where is the care provided for my child?

Our Barkley location is on Rimland Drive in Barkley Village, just off Woburn Street (2410 Rimland Drive).  Barkley has two toddler classrooms with a capacity of 14 each (28 total).

Our Heart House location is at 1705 Gladstone St. in the Puget Neighborhood. Heart House has one toddler classroom with a capacity of 14 children.

Our downtown toddler programs are located on Holly and Forest Streets in downtown Bellingham (322 East Holly Street). They’re located in a separate building from the main branch, just up the street, across from the Community Food Co-Op. The downtown classroom has two toddler classrooms with capacity of 14 each (28 total).


Are your facilities licensed?

Yes, each of our toddler 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 toddler classroom has a ratio of 1 teacher for every 7 children, however both locations have additional staff scheduled to help assist at naptime and diaper changes.  


What are your hours?

Both the Barkley and Downtown locations are open Monday through Friday, 6:30 am to 6:00 pm. Heart House is open Monday through Friday, 7:00am to 6:00pm


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 - three full days per year for professional development.  Please speak with the center director for more specific information about which days this may be.  Heart House closes early at 12:30pm on the 2nd Thursday of each Month.


What is the cost to families?

Toddler Classroom Rates (Effective January 1, 2024)

Toddler I/Sunshine (12-24 months)

5 days per week:  $1771 per month

4 days per week:  $1595 per month

3 days per week:  $1222 per month

2 days per week:  $814 per month


Toddler II/Treehouse (24-30/36 months) Potty Training Children in Preschool

5 days per week:  $1543 per month

4 days per week:  $1415 per month

3 days per week:  $1066 per month

2 days per week:  $739 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.


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. All toddler foods are prepared in a manner to prevent choking hazards and encourage self-feeding.  We begin encouraging drinking from sippy cups (with younger toddlers) and even cups without lids (with older toddlers).

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?

Of course!  Our facilities are located in two convenient areas with a plethora of nearby businesses. Please feel free to come and visit during the day as it fits with your schedule. We enjoy getting to know your family and encourage you to spend time in our classroom.

Sometimes when toddlers age out of their infant stages, the separation anxiety of leaving a parent can become very challenging. Talk with your child’s teacher about this transition. If a child has too much trouble calming down after you leave, we may suggest taking a break from midday visits to ease this concern.  


What will my child do during the day?

After being almost completely dependent on caregivers for the first year of life, toddlers are developing more independence and the need for in-depth exploration. However, meeting all of those basic needs is still very important at this young age.

Every day your toddler will eat two healthy meals and a snack (sometimes two snacks) and rest their body with a nap(s). Frequent diaper changes throughout the day are times that teachers celebrate with children, using it as a time for individualized interaction. As children progress through the toddler rooms, they often begin potty training as well!

Aside from meeting those basic needs, toddlers will enjoy lots of singing and reading with teachers, outdoor time (at least 2 times per day), and exploring centers in the classroom with age-appropriate materials and toys. A few times a week (depending on age), children may engage in sensory projects (water and sand play, for example), art and community walks.

Our programs carry the firm belief that play is the best way for children to learn, so all learning takes place through play, sometimes guided by teachers and sometimes self-initiated by the children.  The toddler rooms are also a very important place to help build relationships, both with caregivers and their peers.  


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. Heart House has key fobs to access the building and has picture entry so teachers know who they are letting into the building. Our Downtown toddler programs are in a separate building from our main building (across from the Community Food Co-Op) and are currently working on replacing door hardware for more security.

However, 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.