Since Oct. 13, several parents in the Sikeston-Miner area may have found that advantage, choosing to send their children to Hand in Hand Learning Center, located at 205 AA Highway.
"We are a learning center," emphasized owner Suzanne Lambert. "We want to teach kids and help prepare them for school."
Explaining today's children need to be prepared as they begin school, Lambert said her new business tries to incorporate educational basics with a fun, safe atmosphere.
Open from 6:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, Hand in Hand Learning Center offers care for newborns to children up to 12 years of age.
The daily schedule, for youngsters ages 2 and up, is designed to provide some structure, Lambert said. Each day children sit around a table trying their skills at an art project or a learning task such as identification of numbers or letters.
While the educational value is obvious, Lambert said the lessons they receive during these sessions also include how to work together and share, plus enhancing their abilities to listen and follow directions.
But the staff provides a variety of fun activities as well. These vary from group play to individual time to make use of their creative skills in various areas set up for play.
While one classroom offers a more structured setting with small tables and chairs, the other classroom is the center of a variety of projects with the sand and water table and area where youngsters try their skills with the paints and markers.
The central room provides areas for dramatic play, an area filled with a variety of toys and blocks and a space Lambert called their "quiet corner" with an array of books.
The children under age 2 have their own designated room complete with age-
appropriate toys, cribs and most importantly a rocking chair where they can cuddle up with staff members for a bit of one-on-one time.
Perhaps the favorite spot for all ages is the large outdoor play area.
Lambert, assisted by her husband and their families, did much of the work creating the playground. They divided the playground with areas for the very youngest and a large area filled with equipment to challenge older children. There is even an open area for running and games.
"Even our babies love getting out here," said Lambert about the playground.
Having her own childcare business is something Lambert said she has always wanted. But opening the Hand in Hand Learning Center took many months beginning with the search for just the right location.
The Miner location with its large back yard soon became the obvious choice. "And many people are surprised by the size of the building. There really is so much room," said Lambert.
Licensed for 58, the Center currently is providing care for 26. While the newborn area is filled, there are still openings in the preschool care. For those children attending school, Lambert said the bus from the Kindergarten Center stops at the front door while there is also pickup service available.
The cost for care is comparable to other daycare facilities in the area, Lambert said. Also she noted as a state-licensed day care, the center can provide care for children whose parents receive assistance from the state for daycare.
Lambert is assisted at the Center by Michelle Hamra, Patti Shipp, Jennifer Bramlett and Jody Dodson. Hamra is a certified teacher and all the others are experienced daycare providers, she noted.
This experience, she said, should provide parents with the knowledge their children will be well taken care of at Hand in Hand Learning Center.
"We are working to get that word out that we are here and that parents are welcome to drop by to check things out," said Lambert. "They will see we are a good place for their kids."