By Starrla Cray
DELANO, MN Lil’ Explorers Childcare Center has only been open in Delano about a month, but it’s already a lively place.
“We’re actually surprised how quickly it took off,” assistant director Erin Norstedt said, adding that about 50 children are currently enrolled.
The brand new building, located across from CVS Pharmacy and Coborn’s, has room for a total of 115 children.
“We have availability,” Norstedt said. “We’d love for people to come in and look around.”
Lil’ Explorers in Delano is similar to the Waconia facility, which owner/director Jennifer Schultz began in 2003.
“Before it opened, we gave tours of our Waconia location, to give people an idea of what it would look like,” Norstedt said.
A former nanny and in-home daycare provider, Schultz created Lil’ Explorers because of her passion for providing quality childcare.
“She has a great love of children, as do I,” said Norstedt, who has a k-8 teaching license and daycare management training.
The center was a hit with parents and children, so Schultz decided to add a second location.
“She saw the need here, and liked the location near Highway 12,” Norstedt said.
Babies on up
Lil’ Explorers welcomes children ages six weeks through fourth grade, providing care tailored to each child’s individual needs.
In the infant room, the child-to-staff ratio is four to one.
Younger infants participate in “tummy time,” and teachers work with them on developmentally-appropriate skills such as sitting up, crawling, grasping toys, and more.
Older infants take part in baby sign language, simple art projects, stories, and songs. They’re also introduced to climbing, walking, and ball play.
In the toddler room, teachers help students develop verbal skills and independence. Toddlers learn colors and numbers in both Spanish and English, have playground time, and participate in music daily.
“We’re looking at getting a music teacher, and we’re also looking at computer classes for preschool and school-aged children,” Norstedt said.
Lil’ Explorers strives to create an environment that encourages learning and exploration for all ages.
“The day is more structured for older children,” Norstedt said, adding that students are also given time to relax and unwind.
Preschoolers (ages 2.5 to 5) work on skills like cutting, gluing, puzzles, and games. Students who will be entering kindergarten the following year participate in an in-depth reading, writing, and math program.
Lil’ Explorers is open Monday through Friday, 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., and busing is available for children before and after school.
Children are served breakfast before they leave for school in the morning, and a healthy snack when they return.
“We do a rotating menu,” Norstedt said. “In the summer, they sometimes have the opportunity to make their own meal, something simple and fun.”
Summer is also a good time for field trips, camps, and plenty of time outdoors.
“Typically, field trips are centered around our themes,” Norstedt said. “We went to Baylor Park during our gardening theme, and to the Glencoe Aquatic Center during our wet and wild theme.”
Whether it’s a picnic in a nearby park or a trip to the Minnesota Children’s Museum, children are given multiple opportunities to explore exciting places.
“What’s nice for parents, is that the field trips are included in the tuition,” Norstedt said. “They’re not an added cost.”
Lil’ Explorers often takes advantage of local outings, as well.
“We just went to the bank across the street to visit Santa,” Norstedt said. “We also might be partnering with The Legacy assisted living center.”
To make an appointment to visit Lil’ Explorers or to enroll a child, call (763) 972-2176.
To see the Lil’ Explorers website, click here.