By Gabe Licht
Delano Herald Journal Editor
LESTER PRAIRIE, MN As a teenager growing up in Lester Prairie and volunteering at an in-home daycare, Erin (Klaustermeier) Norstedt thought, “If I like kids, I should go into early childhood education.”
When she graduated college, she decided her real goal was to own a childcare center.
That goal became a reality Jan. 30, when she and her husband, Luke, purchased Lil’ Explorers Child Care Center in Delano and changed the name to Big Woods Child Care Center.
Norstedt began working as a teacher at the Waconia Lil’ Explorers location in 2006, and moved to the Delano location as the director when it opened in 2011.
When the opportunity to purchase the center arose, it seemed like a no-brainer to her.
“The owners of Lil’ Explorers approached me and asked if I’d be interested in purchasing it,” Norstedt said. “It seemed like a really smooth transition. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do.”
Norstedt enjoys that children are able to play and use their imagination at the center, while also reaching other milestones.
“I enjoy getting to watch the day-to-day growth like learning to eat solids and walk and talk and, as they get older, learning letters, numbers, and colors,” Norstedt said. “The progression from when they are infants to when they head off to school is just huge leaps and bounds. I really enjoy that. I enjoy caring for kids, not just teaching, but the caregiver aspect, as well.”
She has been able to watch her own children’s progress at the center.
“My own child has been all the way through the program, so I can vouch for it,” Norstedt said. “But, it’s also been fun to see other people’s kids go through the program. My son started at 6 months old with a whole group of kids that age, and we were able to put them all on the bus this past fall for kindergarten. It was really cool to see that and see their families grow.”
Wanting a regional name that local people can relate to, the Norstedts opted to change the name to Big Woods.
“We go to Lake Rebecca Park, and I noticed it was the Big Woods Play Area, so I Googled it to find out what it meant and it turns out this area was known as the Big Woods,” Norstedt said. “We wanted to do something regional. We just love this community and the people in it. We’ve had awesome families here the whole time. We just wanted to do something that connected us to Delano.”
Beyond the name, not much is changing.
“We believe in the program,” Norstedt said. “That’s all been great, so we’re going to keep things as consistent as possible. We’re really proud of our program, so we don’t want to change that. All our teachers are staying on, and they’re all excellent. I can’t say enough good things about them.”
Norstedt also noted that the center is consistently full, and that the wait list will carry over to the new ownership.
That’s just another example of how the transition has gone.
“It was a really smooth, fluid thing, and a great opportunity,” Norstedt said.