Our daycare accepts infants from 6 weeks to 12 months on a full-time basis. Every baby is given consistent and personal attention from our dedicated and loving staff. We provide individual feeding, sleeping, diapering, and play schedules that respect the unique qualities of each infant. Developmentally appropriate activities are provided that allow infants plenty of time, space, and materials to learn and grow at their own pace. Since relationships with trusted adults are so important, the staff at Friends engages in many one-on-one, face-to-face interactions with infants, using a calm voice, simple language, and frequent eye contact. Playful interactions are done in ways that are sensitive to the child’s interests and level of tolerance for physical movement, different sights and sounds, and the presence of other children.
When children learn to walk, they are placed in a toddler class. Low teacher-to-child ratios (1:5) allow a great deal of personal attention and interaction with the adults. This gives the teachers at Friends the time to respond to the temperament, needs, and cues of each individual child. Our daycares small group and one-on-one activities allow children ample opportunities for hands-on, active exploration of their environment. Here, they experience an explosion of new concepts, ideas, and vocabulary, while they learn how to be part of a group. Daily communications with the families allow the toddler class to become a familiar, positive extension of the home.
Children constantly test their limits and express opposition. One of their favorite words is NO! But this is a normal, necessary step as they develop a healthy sense of themselves as separate, autonomous individuals. Our teachers recognize this, so they use positively-worded directions that tell the children what they can do, instead of what they can’t do, for example, saying, “Use your walking feet” instead of “Don’t run.” Teachers patiently redirect the children to help guide them toward controlling their own impulses and behavior. In addition to working on social and emotional skills, the children also have opportunities every single day to expand their physical, cognitive, and language development. At Friends, we are fortunate to have those special teachers who find genuine joy in being with two-year-olds and who love seeing the world through the children’s innocent eyes.
A massive amount of cognitive development takes place in the various learning centers that allow maximum time for hands-on play, exploration, and discovery. At the same time, this is an important time in children’s social and emotional development, as well. At Friends, the older two-year-olds are acknowledged for their accomplishments and are helped to feel increasingly competent and in control of themselves. Since self-esteem comes from real accomplishment, allowing them to do things on their own is the best way we can help them develop self-confidence. Healthy social and emotional development is essential in children’s cognitive development. Daily activities in carefully-constructed learning areas allow for maximum intellectual learning. In addition, language development, which is part of literacy, is increased when children listen and talk to others (receptive and expressive language). Their vocabularies are greatly increased during this time in their lives!
When children turn 3 years of age, they are placed in one of two preschool classes, where they stay until the year before they enter Kindergarten. Both classes share the same underlying educational programs through curriculum and developmentally appropriate practices. As children become more independent, they choose which activities to focus on in their educationally-rich classroom environment.
At Friends, we provide the perfect balance: developmentally appropriate practices with active, hands-on, play-based learning, along with some purposeful but stress-free instruction on skills the children will need. For example, we use Handwriting Without Tears, http://www.hwtears.com/hwt which provides multi-sensory tools that allow children to actively participate with joy. In addition, each and every learning center in the Pre-K room is labeled with a list of specific skills the children are learning as they play. Early cognitive learning consists of three things: plenty of time, plenty of materials, and plenty of interactions with skilled adults. Our trained teachers have carefully designed these programs and filled them with just the right kinds of materials that guarantee maximum learning as the children are engaged in them. During expanded times of child-directed activities, teachers move from group to group, where they add educational value to what’s happening. It looks like play, but it is serious learning! We are confident that the Pre-K program at Friends is an excellent experience for the children as they prepare to enter Kindergarten.
Before and after school care is provided for school-age students up to age 10. After school, they are given a snack and time to do their homework, along with any help they need. Then they have a mixture of individual and group activities, some self-directed and some coordinated by their trained teacher. Time is made for outdoor play on a daily basis, weather permitting. Without realizing it, they are still learning, even when the homework is done!
In addition, Friends’ Summer Camp is a special time that keeps them active and learning during those weeks between one school year and the next. We choose an overall theme, and then we give the students weeks of fun, exciting activities to do that keep them learning, reading, and expanding their knowledge in many areas. They develop self-confidence and a love of learning at daycare.