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90% of a child’s brain develops by age 5. Without proper and equitable early learning, achievement and economic gaps widen.

Think Small’s purpose is to close those gaps by getting every child kindergarten-ready. We are a comprehensive resource for early learning; we empower child care providers, educators, and families through connections, training, coaching, and financial support. We also educate and influence policy makers.

Mission & Vision


Think Small’s mission is to advance quality care and education of children in their crucial early years.


We envision a time when economic and achievement gaps are closed and every child is ready for kindergarten, ultimately realizing their full potential.



In 1971, no one imagined that a community’s first, simple steps to help working moms would decades later grow into a leading voice for children.

But that’s how we started.

It was a time of profound change for families in St. Paul and around the nation. With mothers of young children entering the workforce in record numbers, child care arose as a major issue. Who would take care of the kids while mom was at work? Where? How? Would it be affordable? How could the community help?

We started by creating a mobile toy lending library that visited family child care homes. While children enjoyed supervised play on the bus, providers participated in training sessions aimed at improving the quality of care.

The Toys N Things Training and Resource Center was a humble, colorful beginning of a group that would in time join with four other organizations—each dedicated to affordable, organized, and accessible early childhood care and education—to ultimately become Resources for Child Caring.

In 2012, we changed our name to Think Small, a name that’s contemporary, differentiating, and reflective of our intense focus on early childhood. We remain as dedicated to our mission now as we have always been—and to the principles that gave rise to our organization in 1971:

  • That the quality of a child’s early experiences greatly influences his or her success later in life.
  • That there is much that can be done to improve the quality of early childhood settings to optimize a child’s development.

Theory of Change

To support the full potential of every child, Think Small is committed to championing policies and practices of equity that foster a just, inclusive, and equitable care and education system for all children in their crucial early years.

View Theory of Change


Strategic Plan

If children have access to quality child care with sufficient dosage they will be ready for kindergarten. We stand on the result of being ready for kindergarten.

Think Small’s contribution is to ensure quality early care and education is available and accessible

The population goal that we’re looking to meet in strategic plan, which was set by the Board of Directors, is to ensure that all children are ready for kindergarten. And for us then that means a particular focus on those children that are in the opportunity gaps, or what some call the achievement gap. A good descriptor of that is income. You can fall into such a gap for other reasons, but a large percentage of children from low income families, will be at a much higher risk of falling into opportunity gaps. For us, that’s exactly the work that we’re trying to do, and where we focus our efforts.

View Strategic Plan View Executive Summary

Leadership Team

President and Chief Executive Officer
Cisa Keller651-641-6635
Vice President of Development and InnovationJonathan May651-641-6609
Vice President of Equity and Early Childhood ProgramsCandace Yates651-641-6671
Director of Think Small Institute and Redleaf PressNikki Darling-Kuria651-641-1511
Administrative DirectorGail Bultman651-641-6674

Board of Directors

Consultant and Change Agent Tracy NordstromChair
Director of Marketing, Schwan’s Company Jaylon RosenblumVice Chair
Senior Vice President of Services and Strategy for Sleep NumberTanya SkogerboeTreasurer
VP, Human Resources, The Toro CompanyMargeaux KingSecretary
Director, Life Sciences Strategy & Business Development, Donaldson Company, Inc. Cory PadeskyDirector
Vice President of Family and Community Impact Programs, Northside Achievement Zone Andrè DukesDirector
Director of the Institute of Child Development and Associate Director of the Center for Neurobehavioral Development Megan Gunnar (Dahlberg)Director
Past President, Cargill Foundation Rob JohnsonDirector
CEO, Hurston Institute for Learning & Development Yolanda MajorsDirector
Senior Fellow, Humphrey School of Public Affairs, University of Minnesota Arthur J. RolnickDirector
Founding Partner, Fallon Worldwide Fred SennDirector
Chief Financial OfficerJim SparksCommunity Volunteer
Co-Chair, HealthPartners Children’s Health Initiative, Park Nicollet Pediatrics Chairperson Andrea Singh, MDDirector
Senior Marketing Research Consultant, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago/Minneapolis Andrea SternDirector
MN StoryCollective Coordinator, Minnesota Management and Budget Molly SullivanDirector
Manager-HR Business Partners, Hormel Foods CorporationAngie BissenDirector
Rhoda RedleafEmeritus Director
Mary Ann Barrows WarkEmeritus Director

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