Taking the first step
You don’t want to leave your little tike alone, but sometimes life (or the need to relax) requires some personal time. We’ve found some of the best, local options to let your child grow, learn and prepare for kindergarten and beyond.
It’s a Small World Daycare
8318 Carpenter Rd., Ypsilanti
734-714-3040 | smallworlddaycare.org
With an emphasis on creating a nurturing environment and an awareness of the needs of each individual child during development, It’s a Small World Daycare has been serving families in Washtenaw County since 1993. The daycare features five distinct programs separated by age group: Small Wonders (for infants through 15 months), Tireless Toddlers (for ages 15 months through 33 months, or when children are ready), Little Adventures (ages three to four), Pre-K (four year olds), and Explorers Club before and after-school programs (school-age children). Each program is specially modeled to demonstrate appropriate behavior and designed to establish a routine that engages children and lays a foundation for lifelong learning. Schedules are maintained in order to establish a familiar flow to each day, and themes and activities for each group are based on children’s interests so that they are exposed to music, theatre, art, science, reading, life skills, outdoor play, movement and more, depending on what resonates. Programs are open to children with special needs as well, as teachers at It’s a Small World believe that every child deserves to be part of a learning community, and the inclusion of children with special needs benefits everyone involved. Parents shouldn’t feel left out either — with their emphasis on experiential learning, It’s a Small World offers chances for parents to get directly involved through shared experiences and offers parental training and a thorough support community. To learn more, find daily schedules, and view biographies of teachers,
It’s a Small World Daycare Programs
Small Wonders — Positive reinforcement is the name of the game in the infant room, where teachers model appropriate “gentle touches” and plenty of age-appropriate behavior for children not quite at “sharing” age.
Tireless Toddlers — Goals at this age include increased motor skills developed through outdoor play, finger-play, and more; social development like sharing and taking turns, cognitive and language development, and encouraging independence and building self-esteem.
Little Adventurers — Developing imagination and sense of self through play-based activities is what drives this age group, with curiosity and exploration encouraged, but reinforced by a stable routine.
Pre-K — Preparing children for kindergarten is paramount at this program. Children will continue with play-based curriculum but will focus on reading, writing, and math skills, as well as safety, health and nutrition, and developing responsibility.
The Discovery Center
775 S. Maple Rd., Ann Arbor
734-663-7496 | thediscoverycenterpreschool.com
The Discovery Center is an early childhood program for two-and-a-half to five-year-olds that has been serving families in the Ann Arbor area since 1974. With a highly-educated and experienced staff, a modern building designed specifically for their use, and a nurturing, flexible program, the staff at The Discovery Center believes the environment created there for young children is ideal. The Discovery Center has been an accredited program through the National Association for the Education of Young Children since 1993. The Discovery Center provides an environment that encourages each child to approach optimum physical, social, emotional, aesthetic, and intellectual growth. Their programs are based on an open classroom approach with emphasis on a hands-on, experiential environment. The classroom environment encourages each child to explore “discovery centers” set up by the staff and to participate in a full range of activities occurring throughout the day. The program is also enhanced by outside specialists who provide Spanish, music, and storytelling enrichment activities.
Jenkins Early Childhood Learning Center
Dexter Community School
2801 Baker Rd.
734-424-4180 | dexterschools.org
After moving into a new, state-of-the-art facility in September of 2014 (thanks to a grant from the Jenkins family), the Jenkins Early Childhood Learning Center has greatly expanded their services to offer full-day care for infants through kindergarten, and half-day preschool programs for ages three through five. Jenkins Early Childhood Learning Center follows the HighScope curriculum that provides hands-on experiences with people, materials, events and ideas in order to promote a sound foundation for when children transition from preschool to kindergarten. The HighScope curriculum is a proven, research-based method that trains teachers to help children establish their individualism and promotes independence, decision-making, curiosity, and problem-solving. Teachers and parents work with children to form lasting bonds and empower students by sharing responsibility for their own education. Dexter Community Schools previously received a Great Start School Readiness Program grant for four-year-olds who are eligible to receive preschool services at no expense to the parents. Before and after school care is available as well. Enrollment for Fall starts March 21. Call to schedule a tour.
Ann Arbor YMCA
400 W. Washington St.
734-996-9622 | annarborymca.org
Caring, honesty, respect, and responsibility — those are the tenants of the early child care system at the YMCA, which has been accredited through the National Association for the Education of Young Children since 2008. Daily planned lessons incorporate creative engagement and play, with centers and small groups focused on sensory experiences, language and literary experiences, and age-appropriate physical fun! Free-choice selections are emphasized: Children can participate in dramatic play, construction, transportation and exploration, and much more. There are two programs for different age groups; All-Stars (two-and-a-half years old to three-and-a-half years of age) and Aviators (three-and-a-half years old to age five). There is also a half-day Pre-K program available that runs on the Ann Arbor Public Schools calendar. The Early Child Care Programs run year-round, Monday through Friday, from 7:30am to 6pm with two-day, three-day, or five-day a week packages available. To download the Early Childhood Parent Handbook, or to inquire about waitlist and enrollment information, contact Child Care director Sarah Kim at 734-661-8058 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
YMCA of Ann Arbor Early Child Care Programs
All-Stars — Classroom for children aged two-and-a-half to three-and-a-half. Child care staff will work with children and their families to develop self-help skills and help with potty training.
Aviators — Classroom for children age three-and-a-half to five that are also toilet-trained. The Aviator room offers swim lessons twice a week with the price of tuition, with experienced instructors on hand and free play time.
Childwatch — When parents come to the Ann Arbor YMCA for a class, program, or a simple workout, it helps knowing their child will be safe. Children age six months to 11-years-old can experience safe play with trained YMCA staff for up to two hours per-day. Best of all, this program is free for parents with a YMCA membership.
After School Care — Children from kindergarten through fourth grade can complete homework and enjoy physical and outdoor activities. Light snacks are served, and the program includes transportation from local Ann Arbor Public Schools.
Annie’s Children’s Center
Downtown | 216 Beakes St. | 734-761-8070 | anniescc.com
East | 3220 Oakwood St. | 734-973-7222
West | 5350 Park Rd. | 734-663-8081
Three different locations and six different care options highlight the flexibility of an Annie’s Children’s Center education. Founded in 1995 by owners and operators Anne and Robert Kennedy, Annie’s programs take into consideration each child’s individual development and interests, and caregivers and teachers work closely with families to structure activities that are developmentally appropriate for each child. The curriculum at Annie’s helps transform classrooms into communities, where toddlers and infants collaborate on art and creative expression, sensory exploration, active play zones, fine motor skills, dramatic play, outdoor play, and much more. Annie’s welcomes in a number of unique visitors to their classrooms; the fire department, police department, members of the Leslie Science Center, petting farms, storytellers and musicians all stop by to break up the routine and interest children in the outside world. To keep the whole family involved, parents can access weekly lesson plans that are distributed at the start of every month, and there is a family network where ideas and information can be exchanged. Call to schedule a tour and for enrollment information.
100 Oakbrook Dr.
734-662-3335 | daycroft.org
A Daycroft education includes the Montessori, student-centered approach and traditional teaching methods. Daycroft balances student-initiated education with teacher-lead activities. Daycroft preschool offers a solid foundation in Montessori Education with a five day per-week program with full or half-day options, where two qualified teachers per classroom prepare an environment for self-expression and achievement. At the elementary campus they maintain two teachers in every multi-age classroom to provide individual and group lessons. Next year, Daycroft will open its first middle school classroom! Daycroft also offers the following programs for all of its students: music, studio art, Spanish, library and technology, and physical education. Additional features of a Montessori education include a Parent-Toddler program, held Wednesday and Friday mornings, that directly involves parents with Daycroft’s child-centered approach and helps prepare toddlers for a full transition into the preschool program; a lunch program that teaches manners and proper nutrition habits; and an after-school enrichment program that features art, science, dance, robotics classes, and more. To attend an open house session, call 734-930-0333 or email email@example.com.
Green Apple Garden Playschool
2664 Miller Rd. — Lower School
511 Miller Ave. — Upper School
734-369-8248 | greenapplegarden.org
Inspired and guided by the Waldorf approach to childhood education — a model based off the teachings of cultural philosopher Rudolf Steiner that emphasizes allowing children to learn through example — the team at Green Apple Garden Playschool believes that guided play is the best way for children to learn. The playschool differs from a regular preschool education in that teachers encourage children to follow their wonder through guided activities, so that instead of sitting down and learning formal math, children might be encouraged to understand math concepts by opening a pretend store. That’s just one example of how Green Apple incorporates play into the curriculum; there is also an emphasis on getting outdoors and enjoying nature, often for as long as two to three hours per-day, weather permitting. Organized play outside helps connect children to the natural rhythm of the seasons, and with practical activities like harvesting local and organic food from Green Apple’s garden, kids will stay engaged and entertained while learning fundamental skills that translate into a lifelong appreciation for nature. Green Apple also prides itself on encouraging different cultures and perspectives in the classroom, evidenced by its Spanish immersion program. Two different schools are offered at different locations: A Lower School for children age six months to three-years-old, and an Upper School for children three-years-old to six-years-old. Tuition rates are calculated based off how many days children attend per-week, and includes snacks.
Green Apple Garden Playschool Fundamentals
Environmental Education — A structured focus on exploring and learning how the natural world works, with a focus on how children can impact the environment to promote sustainable living.
Social-Emotional Learning — Teachers model appropriate behavior so children learn how best to manage emotions, set goals, and learn compassion and respect for their peers.
Process Art — Instead of step-by-step instructions, children are encouraged to follow their muse during craft time, so that the art created is truly the child’s own.
Anti-Bias Education — By embracing differences and setting an example, teachers create a positive climate, imbue children with self-worth, and create future global caretakers.