Early Learning and Child Care

Early learning and child care is vitally important for the healthy development of all children in the NWT. A child’s brain grows most rapidly between birth and age five, and everyone involved in a child’s life – families, grandparents, caregivers, and anyone else – shapes a child’s early development.

Early learning and child care is a priority for the GNWT and it is a mandate of the 19th Legislative Assembly’s to advance universal child care by increasing availability and affordability, and to improve early childhood development indicators for all children.

ECE’s Early Learning and Child Care (ELCC) Division oversees early learning and child care programs for children from birth to age 12.

We help families and children access licensed early learning and child care programs by:

  • Licensing and monitoring centre-based and family day homes according to Child Day Care Act and Standards Regulations
  • Providing funding to licensed ELCC program costs to help offset the high costs of child care
  • Supporting children with additional support needs in child care settings
  • Providing post-secondary education and professional development opportunities to early childhood educators

Transforming early learning and child care in the NWT

The 2030 Early Learning and Child Care (ELCC) Strategy: A Commitment and Vision for Action and the Northwest Territories’ (NWT) Canada-wide 2021-2022 to 2022-2023 Action Plan provides the GNWT with renewed priorities for improving the quality, affordability, accessibility, and inclusivity of early learning and child care in the NWT and shares the long-term vision for a Canada-wide early learning child care system as set out in the Government of Canada’s Multilateral Early Learning and Child Care Framework and Indigenous Early Learning and Child Care Framework.

The development of the Strategy was informed by:

Commitments for the next 10 years:

  • Improving affordability of early learning and child care
  • Supporting the creation and sustainability of licensed programs
  • Enhancing inclusion and participation
  • Fostering a qualified early childhood workforce

Highlights of the 2021-2022 to 2022-2023 Canada-wide Action Plan include:

  • Reducing average parent fees for children five years of age and younger who attend licensed child care by 50% in 2022 and further reducing to an average of $10 per day across the territory by 2025-2026.
  • Funding to support the recruitment and retention of early childhood educators, acknowledging that quality and expansion of services requires educators that are better compensated through increased wages and access to increased professional learning and post-secondary learning opportunities.
  • Creating 300 licensed early learning and child care spaces by 2025-2026 to improve child care access for NWT families.
  • Supporting culturally appropriate programs grounded in Indigenous worldviews to meet the needs of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis Nation communities to ensure Indigenous children and families have access to affordable, high-quality early learning and child care.
  • Supporting participation in inclusive early learning and child care and programs by providing more funding for licensed programs that support children with diverse needs, such as those who are vulnerable and/or who have specific developmental needs.

Total estimated investment into the NWT’s ELCC system through GNWT funding and federal agreements is expected to reach $114 million between 2021-2022 to 2025-2026.

Learn more on how we plan to transform early learning and child care in the NWT.

Related links


Federal agreements and action plans

Strategies, frameworks, and action plans