Word on the Street
Even before my first son was born, I had a vision in my mind of the place where my child would spend his days. I wanted to find the place that was, above all else, safe. I wanted my baby to feel safe and happy when I was not there, as well as to be kept safe from physical harm. Beyond this very basic need, I wanted to find a place where the staff and the children were thriving. This means a place where the staff choose to stay year after year because they feel rewarded personally and professionally, and they have chances to learn new things through ongoing training or in working with other educated and passionate colleagues around them. This means a place where the children learn through structured play, and as they grow older they gain confidence and skills to negotiate surprisingly tricky social situations found in a group of 4-year olds around the Lego table as well as the basic knowledge of letters, numbers, and rules of a game.
I had no idea how hard it would be to find that place in a big city among long waiting lists. During my pregnancy I toured 9 different childcare centers in the Seattle metro area, and I put my name on waiting lists for several of them. But the one that really felt right was Kidspace, and I had that feeling from the first time I walked through their door. Every day I have been there in the past 3 years to drop off or pick up my children, I still feel the same way.
Let me share some of my favorite things about Kidspace. The fresh food that is prepared on site every day and served family-style – my son would be called a picky eater by any standards, but his top 3 favorite foods are the pasta portofino, apricot chicken, and bean burritos from the Kidspace kitchen. The dance, music and sign language programs offered for each age group on a regular schedule by talented local resources – you can’t imagine the fun that happens when Sandy comes with her banjo or drums and engages each class with her original songs. The time spent outside in the fresh air every day in the sun or drizzle – this playground is where two of my three children have learned to go from crawling to riding cars to pushing wagons to stumbling through the wood chips to running in a game of freeze tag. The language that is part of the Kidspace philosophy using respectful words that teach and encourage at the same time – one morning recently my 3-year old son gave a prime example of this when he said, “Mom! I am getting frustrated with these husks in my oatmeal!” The personal relationship we have with so many of the staff in various classrooms who know me, my husband, and our 3 children all by name – last week one of the teachers shared the story with me of how my 17-month old daughter watched out the window as her older brother was playing on the playground and she yelled out a big “Hello!” to him. The very special staff members who genuinely seem to share my amazement and wonder as my children grow and learn before their eyes – they cannot wait to tell me what new words my son said today, or to show me the picture they took of my daughter putting on her own socks.
My mother lives out of town, and she has heard me tell her many times how grateful I am to be able to give the gift of Kidspace to my children. One time when she was in town I brought her to Kidspace and showed her around to many of the classrooms and play areas and introduced her to staff. Later that night I asked her what she thought. She said, “I never really thought about what makes a good child care center. Now I understand what you talk about. It is not the building itself, the carpet or the curtains, or the size of the rooms. It is the way the children receive so much sincere love and attention when they are there.” That is how I feel about Kidspace, and I know my children feel it, too, from the smiles on their faces.