This post is sponsored by our partner Little Sunshine’s Playhouse & Preschool®.
On the advice of a savvy coworker, my husband and I started exploring daycare options for our first child when I was just 8 weeks pregnant, long before we’d even shared the exciting news with families. At the time, I was entirely focused on finding a safe, nurturing environment for my infant by the time my maternity leave ended. Her early childhood education wasn’t even a blip on my radar yet. Until we toured Little Sunshine’s Playhouse in University City. During the tour, the director asked me, “What are your educational goals for your child?”
I think I answered with something like, “What a great question…” She smiled at my hesitation and said she understood that new parents might not be thinking that far ahead yet but the time when our little peanut would be ready to explore and learn would be here before we knew it. She shared with us about Little Sunshine’s philosophy and curriculum, which all sounded wonderful. And, I promptly forgot about it again until, faster than I would have thought possible, I had a mobile, curious toddler entering the 1-year-old classroom.
Entering the Toddler Years
When our daughter transitioned to the toddler classroom, so much changed. She started drinking from a sippy cup at lunch and taking her nap on a tiny cot, and her days became a bit more structured with predictable activities peppered into the mix with her free play. Each day, her beloved Ms. Kate would encourage the toddlers to join her on the mat for circle time to talk about their letter, color, shape, and even yoga pose of the week. Our daughter also started doing themed activities that supported the physical, mental, and social/emotional developmental milestones for her age group. For example, during a unit on “creepy crawlies,” she practiced her motor skills by digging in a sensory box for plastic bugs. The best part about many of these activities for the young toddlers is that they are done one at a time. For instance, during an art project, one child at a time might come up to work with the teacher while the rest of the class enjoy circle time waiting for their turn. I appreciate that this method allows each child individualized attention and to progress at their own pace.
Staying in Touch with Teachers
As a former educator, I also like that the teachers work toward learning objectives for each unit that tie back to developmental milestones as well, like sorting and identifying things by size and color and signing at least one theme word. How do I know about all this you ask? Teachers communicate with parents in several ways—a monthly newsletter from the school promotes the theme and objectives, a weekly newsletter from the teacher shares the topic for the week, and twice yearly parent teacher conferences provide a forum to discuss progress toward a child’s individual goals and any areas of concern. My favorite, though, is the daily report that gives not only a snapshot of what the class did that day but personal anecdotes about how my daughter responded to them. I love being able to pull through those learnings at home by asking her specifically about an activity (“Ms Bethany told me you got to make applesauce today. How did you do that?”) or reinforcing things she’s learning (“Cat starts with a C, just like your letter of the week, right?”).
A Bright Future
My daughter, now almost three years old, has blossomed in Little Sunshine’s supportive, engaging environment. Each of her teachers have forged strong relationships with her, establishing a high level of comfort that allows her to play and learn without fear. As a working mom, daycare drop off can be tough, no doubt. But, there’s no better feeling than seeing my daughter run into her classroom and hug her teacher or high-five her favorite helper on the way in the front door. When I can’t physically be there, it helps to know that she has adults she loves and trusts to guide her through the day. Her baby sister will be starting her Little Sunshine’s journey in just a few weeks, and I’m looking forward to experiencing it all again though her eyes.
Angela Nelson Baker moved to the St Louis area for grad school 18 years ago and never looked back. Currently she lives in West St Louis County with her husband, two young daughters, a miniature schnauzer and two wily cats. Outside of working and #momlife, Angela enjoys politics, true crime podcasts, HIIT workouts, and drinking a cup of good coffee before it gets cold. Her passion is empowering working mothers and advocating for family-friendly policies in her workplace.