By: Marie Huey
Early Education Spotlight is an ongoing series that showcases great work happening in child care and preschool settings across Minnesota. From innovative early learning programs to parent perspectives on what works, check out the Early Education Spotlight for unique examples of Minnesota’s early learning successes.
Young children carry ceramic vessels filled with water across the carefully organized room. Five-year-olds help younger children serve their food at lunch time. A group of kids play on an empty patch of grass without any props, imagining one of them is driving an ice cream truck, while the others line up to buy treats. These are just a few of the scenarios that play out regularly at Asanka Lintotage’s Family Child Care at her home in Richfield, Minnesota. The program is called Achcha’s Daycare, meaning “Grandma” in Sinhalese, which is a language spoken in her home country, Sri Lanka. Asanka chose the name because she strives to be a nurturing presence with the children in her care while also setting healthy limits and supporting their growth and education.
Asanka trained in the Montessori Method, which she incorporates into her program. There are no bouncers or saucers in her play space. Rather, infants move around on the floor. While she occasionally uses a tablet to show kids educational videos, Asanka does not have a TV available for children to watch. In the mixed age group, the little ones learn from the big kids. Asanka presents each child with new activities as he or she is ready. Some of her toys are from her native Sri Lanka, where Montessori is quite popular.
Asanka’s daughter, Tehani, works with her to run the program. Together, they provide a family-oriented environment that is loving and nurturing. While children have plenty of time for purposeful play, they follow a routine that includes daily yoga. This age-appropiate schedule supports their healthy development. Asanka’s family setting with intentional structure and education is also a draw for parents. She currently cares for two sets of siblings, and another little brother or sister is on the way.
Practical life activities seem to be the children’s favorites. Whether carrying
water in a ceramic pitcher or scooping up small grains with a spoon, the children enjoy acting out these tasks. The purposeful activities allow children to practice hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills which will be important when they start to learn to write. Asanka provides plenty of time for the children to really focus on the activity and become absorbed. This ability to focus is critical for their success in kindergarten and life.
Asanka participates in Parent Aware, which is a ratings system that promotes research-based best practices in early learning programs through training and coaching. Her program is currently rated at 2 Stars, and she is pursuing a 3 star rating. By taking part in this system that allows providers to demonstrate and improve their program quality, Asanka knows she is going the extra mile to give better care to the children and prepare them for school. She explained that running a high-quality program is a huge responsibility—she prepares lesson plans and cooks homemade meals. In between all of that, she finds time to build a foundation for the children’s future success by teaching them respect, confidence, and “how to be proper individuals.” All in a day’s work.