The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, February 26, 1999


Two Carlisle Daycare Centers Offer A Valuable Tradition of Family Services

For many years two daycare centers in Carlisle have provided a much-needed service to local families. They do the important job of caring for children while parents go to work, school, or other commitments. Compared to larger establishments, the daycare centers in town have the advantage of offering home-style settings, dedicated and nurturing staffs, and being close at hand for busy parents.

The directors of Carlisle's daycare centers don't see similar programs in other towns, such as Concord, as competition. "There is not enough care available and we can only take a certain number of children," says Gail MacLeod, director of the Carlisle Children's Center on Lowell Road, which currently has a waiting list. Noting a change from past years, Lillian DeBenedictis, director of The Children's Place on Carleton Road, which also has a waiting list for this fall, says, "These days we can't tell parents when there will be a space available." DeBenedictis now advises expectant parents who will need daycare to put their names on a wait list well before the baby is born. In fact, daycare for infants is in short supply in the area because many centers simply do not offer it.

For many years two daycare centers in Carlisle have provided a much-needed service to local families.

In addition to offering full-time daycare, the centers have many children who attend part-time on various schedules. Each daycare center also has a special morning preschool program during the school year. Fresh air and exercise is emphasized and children play outside twice daily, weather permitting, in large back yards filled with climbing and play equipment.

The daycare centers are known in town mainly by word of mouth and don't advertise. Many parents feel their association with other families with children in daycare has helped them to form lasting friendships. Karen Piette, whose children attend The Children's Place, believes that in her family, both children and parents have gained a circle of friends through the center.

Carlisle Children's Center

239 Lowell Street

Director Gail MacLeod has operated the Carlisle Children's Center for the past fourteen years and says the center "feels like home" to the ten toddlers and 20 preschoolers who attend. The center accepts children starting at age 15 months for the toddler program, and at age two years, nine months for a preschool program that continues until a child is around five. The programs are held in separate rooms in the basement of MacLeod's home. During play, toddlers and preschoolers have separate fenced-in areas behind the house.

More or less structure

The toddler room follows a less structured schedule than the preschool. "Things aren't going to run like clockwork with toddlers," says MacLeod, so there is time allowed for spontaneous play or activities. Most days there is outdoor play, snack time, circle time when children gather for a story or game, lunch, afternoon nap and arts and crafts projects. The weekly schedules follow a theme with a special emphasis on each

holiday through the year. A day sheet is sent home with parents of toddlers to let them know how long their child napped, what foods they ate, to communicate some of the minutiae that make up a child's day.

When a child is two years, nine months old they graduate from the toddler room to the preschool room. The center tries to match two children who are around the same age to make the transition to the older children's room easier.

Early morning activities

The center runs their preschool program from 9 to 12 each morning, so that children enrolled full-time can take part in a preschool curriculum, with weekly theme-based programs and early learning focusing. The February schedule for the preschool has children visiting the Gleason Library's story hour and going to Discovery Museum for a field trip.

Every morning a school bus stops at the center to take kindergartners who have been dropped off at the center early to the Carlisle Public Schools. After school the bus takes the children back to the center for lunch and a nap or quiet time in the afternoon.

A summer program for children three and up is associated with the Carlisle Recreation Department. Twice weekly, a bus takes children to the swimming pools of local residents where they are given swim lessons. The summer program also has frequent field trips to Drumlin Farm at Massachusetts Audubon or Discovery Museum. The center owns a van with child safety seats which is used for field trips year round.

Teaching respect

When resolving conflicts between young children, teachers follow some general rules based on the children's ages. With toddlers, teachers keep a watch on the activities that are going on and try to intervene before an incident occurs. For example basic practice when a child takes a toy from another child has the teacher give the toy back and substitute another toy to distract the child. The teachers begin to show the children how to share and have respect for others. At the preschool stage teachers ask the children to first try to work things out for themselves, but intervene if the children have a difficulty they can't resolve.

Flexibility matters

The majority of children attend the center full-time and, because the program is year-round, working parents don't have to make other arrangements for their children during school vacations, except for major holidays. One of the biggest benefits a center can offer families is flexibility. Hours at the Carlisle Children's Center are from 7:30 a.m. until 6:00 p.m., with flexible drop-off and pick-up times within those hours.

MacLeod says that some of the key things that children learn from early child care are social skills outside the home environment and how to deal with separation from their parents. Many children who enter the center have never been away from home. The center asks new families to bring their child for visits for two to three weeks before starting at the center so the child can feel comfortable in the new setting.

Involved parents

MacLeod feels that she is fortunate that so many parents help with new ideas for programs, with parties and gifts of toys and equipment gifts. Parents are encouraged to drop by to see how things are going. Parents can also become as involved as they want, or not. During the holidays, the center has a party for all the families, and every year there is a summer outing at Southwick Animal Park in Mendon.

Marina Hrieb has two children in the preschool at the Carlisle Children's Center. Hrieb says her children adjust much better to other children because of their experiences in a daycare setting. "The center gives the children a chance to be exposed to a lot of children. They learn that each household is unique."

For the last five years, Anne Boudreau,who works full-time, has brought her two children to the Carlisle Children's Center. She likes having a daycare center right in town, and says her six-year-old daughter's best friends in school are the children she met at 15 months in daycare. She feels the teaching staff takes a personal interest in each child, and says, "No one has loved my children as much as they do."

DeBenedictis said she and the teachers wish they had kept a book to record the funny sayings they have heard kids come up with over the years. Graduates often return to the center for a visit on their school vacations, or if they have a sibling still attending.

Lasting relationships

Kerri Piette, whose children have attended The Children's Place over the last seven years, says, "It feels like an extension of home. The kids feel comfortable there." Piette is a full-time mother of three and says she enrolled her children a couple of days a week to get a break and so the children would be able to socialize with other young children. She says her children have gained independence.

Claudia Talland has two daughters who have attended since they were infants, with one child now in the Carlisle Public Schools and one in her last year at The Children's Place. Talland believes her children have had a richer life for being at the center. The preschool program helped prepare her oldest daughter to learn to read. She said children and parents get to know one another through the center and the relationships continue after the children graduate.

1999 The Carlisle Mosquito