AFSME Local 602 - MSU Moorhead

Good for Kids

"You don't stop playing because you get old -- you get old because you stop playing," says Maplewood provider Gwen French.

Right now, half of Minnesota’s kids are not ready for kindergarten. Quality child care can change that, says Kathy Stevens, an in-home provider in Brainerd. “When you look at early brain development, it has been proven that quality care helps children from the very beginning.”

“It’s easier to build strong children than it is to fix broken men,” says Robert Ellis Sr. He should know: Ellis is a retired corrections officer who now helps his wife, Mary, run her child care in their St. Paul home.

“Inmates did not just become 18 and become felonious,” Ellis says. “They lost that battle when they were younger, often when they were between the ages of 1 to 5. If we do the work as we should at that age, we solve the problem at the other end.”

Like many providers, Stevens develops her own curriculum. She fills her kids’ days with art, numbers, the alphabet, reading, story-telling, show-and-tell – and play. “Play is one of the most important learning tools there is,” she says.

Stevens is also big on science and outdoor activities. Because her home is surrounded by woods and farmland, “we do a lot of lot of bird-watching and bug-collecting.” Children visit nearby barns to visit and count animals.

By its nature, in-home care can be more creative and accommodating than a large day-care center, she says. “We’re not as regimented, we’re not cookie-cutter in our approach.”

Some home-based providers are more likely to specialize in kids with specific skills, specific physical problems, or behavior issues. In homes, children of different ages tend to be together, rather than be kept apart.

Curriculum can adjust more easily to kids’ individual needs, Stevens says. “Learning should be fun,” she says, “and a lot of what we do is fun.”

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