A recent parenting study from the Pew Research Center found that, despite beliefs or education or race, a lot of parents want the same things for their children: responsibility, hard work, helping others, good manners, independence, creativity, empathy for others, tolerance, persistence, and curiosity. From infants to school age, we provide daily opportunities for children to develop these important traits. (For information on the cognitive/academic learning we provide for school readiness, go to Curriculum and Learning.)
We accept 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. 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.
Age 2 – 2½
At this age, 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.
Preschool and Pre-K Program
Young Preschool, ages 2½ – 3
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. Our teachers instill an attitude of “Yes, you can!” in each child. 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. When a child spills something, or when it’s time to clean up the toys, the children are given the opportunity to do it themselves with as little assistance as possible. 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!
Preschool Adventurers and Preschool Explorers, ages 3 and 4
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. There are many benefits to having a child stay with the same teachers in the same class for more than one year, including building relationships, more individualized instruction, more consistent routines, deeper friendships, and stronger emotional development. Both classes share the same underlying educational philosophy through curriculum and developmentally appropriate practices. As children become more independent, they choose which activities to focus on in their educationally-rich classroom environment. Sometimes they immerse themselves in block construction, where they learn math skills. Other times they’re part of an elaborate role-playing scenario, where they develop language skills and practice problem solving and conflict resolution. Or the science materials may draw their attention, and they make exciting discoveries. When they go to the art center, they exhibit their creative talents. Even when they decide to just sit and look at books or put together a puzzle, there is a long list of skills they’re learning, including self-confidence and emotional self-regulation.
Pre-K, the School Year Before Kindergarten
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 multisensory 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 learning centers 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.
School Age Program
School Age & Summer Camp
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.
Adventures in Spanish
For an additional fee, families can take the first step in raising a bilingual child. Research shows that the connections in the brain increase dramatically in the early years, making it easier to learn a new language. Children ages 3-5 participate in fun and active classes at Friends.
Soccer Shots is an engaging children’s soccer program with a focus on character development. https://www.soccershots.org/northernindiana/
Gymnasts in Motion
For an additional fee, families can give their child an introduction to gymnastics in the Big Blue Bus that visits Friends. Children from 18 months to 6 years develop essential motor skills and coordination in 30-minute sessions filled with movement and fun.
Yoga helps children learn techniques for relaxation and inner fulfillment, helping them navigate life’s challenges with a little more ease. Yoga at an early age encourages self-esteem and body awareness with a physical activity that’s noncompetitive. Fostering cooperation and compassion—instead of opposition—is a great gift to give our children.
Experts say children need to hear 1,000 stories before they learn to read on their own. So at Friends, we make it a point to read aloud to children every single day, many times a day. Two stories a day will give them 1,000 stories in just 2 years! As we continue to read stories, we start to point out different words that the children see often. For example, in a book called That’s Not My Puppy, the child sees the word my on every page and may start to recognize it in other places. After that, he or she starts to recognize the letters m and y. That kind of learning is done in context with storybooks, making it genuine and lasting.
With a Fine Arts Major as one of our Preschool teachers, Friends offers the children exposure to paintings from the masters, and they are invited to draw their own versions of some of the classics.
Each teacher has a Music Moments book filled with over 100 songs especially chosen for maximum enjoyment, creativity, and learning. Music stimulates parts of the brain that are related to reading, math, and emotional development. Many of the Music Moments include large and small motor movements. Plus, it’s just plain fun!