Why Choose the Y?

The McGaw YMCA has been a trusted leader in providing high-quality, year-round early childhood education, elementary, and middle school programming for more than 30 years. We are one of the largest licensed childcare providers in Evanston and offer a full range of affordable, accessible, and inspiring programs for children ages 6 weeks to 14 years old.


Our programs are located at the McGaw YMCA Children’s Center and McGaw’s main building in downtown Evanston and at the Family Focus building in Evanston's Fifth Ward. The staff located at the Children’s Center support the admissions process and parent inquiries for all locations.

Inclusion and Accessibility

The Y believes that each child should be recognized as an individual and treated with respect. Our commitment to equity and inclusion places children’s interests, experiences, and needs at the center of our work. We offer developmentally and age-appropriate activities that ensure your child gets the most out of their Y experience. We offer discounts for Y members, Head Start, scholarships, and state subsidies to make sure our programs are affordable.


We use a research-based curriculum in our child care, preschool, and school-age programs to help prepare children for success in school and in life. This research-based, whole-child approach is engaging, culturally, and linguistically responsive, and promotes positive outcomes for children. It focuses on not only what to teach your child, but how and why particular practices are effective based on your child’s learning style. We have key collaborations with Northwestern University and the University of Chicago that help us continually refine our programs.

Focus Areas of Development

All our early childhood education and school-age programs include the following focus areas to inspire a strong foundation for lifelong learning:

  • Social-Emotional Learning: Gaining self-awareness and understanding of people, places, environments, and the appreciation of diversity
  • Physical Development: Understanding healthy eating, physical and personal safety, and building a lifelong enjoyment for physical activity
  • Language and Literacy: Learning to express and communicate their needs and ideas to successfully engage with others
  • Cognitive: Developing reasoning and problem-solving skills through hands-on investigations utilizing materials and tools


  • Community Connections: Learning to care for our community and for those who live in it by taking active walks and field trips in our neighborhoods to connect with nature, murals, neighbors, and businesses.
  • Music: Introducing a musical foundation with high-energy activities through repetition and routines that build life-long enjoyment of music.
  • Swim: Lessons are based on the national YMCA preschool swim program, including Safety Around Water. Instructional Flotation Devices (belts) are part of the YMCA swim lesson program, they allow the children to practice skills and correct body position while also building endurance. Instructors are trained to work with timid and confident swimmers to advance their individual abilities.


  • Science: Beginning to understand physical life and the environment
  • Technology: Becoming aware and learning the basics of tools and technology
  • Engineering: Building, constructing and problem-solving
  • Arts and Self Expression: Granting the freedom to explore, think creatively and find healthy ways to express individuality
  • Math: Understanding of numbers, concepts, patterns and relationships

Healthy Kids

At the YMCA, we focus on keeping kids and their families excited about healthy choices by offering nutritious food options and adding physical activity throughout our daily schedules.

  • Nutrition: We participate in the USDA’s Child and Adult Care Food Program, which offers a nutritious breakfast, hot catered lunch, and two afternoon snacks.
  • Physical Activity: Each day, children in our programs walk, run, jump, dance and move through fun and active play in our play areas and large-motor spaces.
  • Health and Wellness: We focus on the whole child in our programs, which includes centering physical and mental health and wellness in all we do. Children in our Head Start program receive health and developmental screenings, oral health, and mental health support.

Family Partnerships

Parents are the most important teachers of their children and are encouraged to participate fully as partners in learning. We intentionally partner with families to create goals for their child and to make connections between learning in the classroom and learning at home. Our teachers and program staff communicate frequently with families and our Parent Support Center provides guidance and resources for families enrolled in our programs.

We invite parents to become involved by sharing their time, their talents, and/or volunteering to support the programs. Parents in our programs are supported in achieving their own goals. Parents are invited to participate in the Parent Advisory Group, serve as room parents, and join parent committees.

We encourage all families to join the McGaw Y and take advantage of member discounts on Y programs, including child care and afterschool tuition, swim lessons, youth sports, and camps. Learn more about the benefits of a Y membership.


Our experienced and highly trained teachers and staff are committed to providing safe and exciting learning opportunities in our programs. Our teachers are selected for their expertise, enthusiasm, and experience. All lead teachers meet state educational requirements and complete extensive hours of professional development and training each year in partnership with the University of Chicago and Northwestern University. Our teachers and staff are required to complete a minimum of 30 hours of training including, but not limited to developmentally appropriate practices, daily observations, CPR, First Aid, AED, and Child Abuse Prevention. We train our teachers and staff in conflict resolution techniques and encourage students to be inclusive of all and celebrate our differences. We run extensive background checks and require reference checks on all of our staff, so we know that we have the very best role models. Since safety is our priority, we make sure that we meet or exceed state staff-to-child ratios.

Accreditation, Licensing & Partnerships

Our programs are accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) and licensed by the State of Illinois. Our partnerships include the Childcare Network of Evanston (CNE), City of Evanston, Evanston/Skokie District 65, and Northwestern University.

Northwestern Affiliates

Thanks to McGaw YMCA’s partnership with Northwestern University, we are able to offer NU affiliated families with access to NU scholarship funds and priority enrollment to our child care, afterschool programs, and camps. We also offer NU families a free McGaw YMCA youth membership, which allows parents to pay the member rate, or approximately a 10% discount on tuition. For more information, please visit the McGaw YMCA benefit page on the NU Human Resources website.


McGaw YMCA Children's Center
1420 Maple Avenue
Evanston, IL 60201


McGaw YMCA at Family Focus
2010 Dewey Avenue
Evanston, IL 60201


MetaMedia at McGaw YMCA
1000 Grove Street
Evanston, IL 60201


If you need assistance or have questions about our programs, please contact our Child Care & Education team.

Our Programs

View a list of our available child care, after-school and summer learning programs.


Read about our registration process and financial assistance.

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