By: Marie Huey, Public Policy and Advocacy Coordinator
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.
Child care professional Lisa Brown knows how much planning is needed to take care of 12 kids at one time. Fortunately, organization is something she’s good at, and it has certainly benefited her and the children she cares for. After feeling unsatisfied with the child care options for her children, Lisa decided to open her own Family Child Care program, Little Angels Child Care. Guided by her high standards, love of children and education, Lisa has created a Three Star Parent Aware Rated program that supports children socially and cognitively.
Her current home in Prior Lake is the third one in which she has operated a child care, and she has it set up in a way that works well for the kids. Working with a Parent Aware coach motivated her to make some changes. While she had tall shelves before, they’re now all at kid level (and built by her dad). The toys are organized by theme and labeled for easy access. Lisa recently converted an office space into additional room for the children. It’s a useful option for when children need a quiet space or Lisa wants to do certain activities like circle time. Add in the large backyard with a playground, and the setup looks like any young child’s dream!
Lisa strives to be a partner in parenting. One of the big ways she does this is by using the Brightwheel phone app to communicate with them throughout the day. Through Brightwheel she can let parents know how much their child ate and slept, what activities they did, and any behavior notes. She can also include information about what book they read and how to continue the discussion about it at home. Lisa has plenty of personal interactions with parents as well to check in about how they are doing at home. She creates a monthly newsletter which includes articles they might find interesting and important dates. She also designs the entire lunch menu for the month ahead of time and gives it to families. That stems from experiences with her own children. She would have dinner all ready to go, only to have the kids say they ate that for lunch, which can make meal time more difficult.
Lisa describes her program and philosophy as child-driven. Much of the time she allows them to choose the activity they like to do—recent favorites are drawing and dramatic play. While children do these activities, she helps facilitate positive interactions, encouraging sharing and helping children use words to describe what they need and how they feel.
An important component of Lisa’s routine is the preschool time she teaches each morning. She has been using the same curriculum for many years, and she is able to adjust and adapt it for the kids as necessary. Because she focuses on education and uses a curriculum, parents know the children are learning and preparing for school. They don’t feel the need to send them to a separate preschool.
Lisa wants people to know that providing high-quality child care is not just babysitting. It takes hard work and planning to sustain a program where kids learn and families feel safe and successful.