Regardless of whatever else changes across the passage of time, there will always be a need to invest in the future of our children. From the moment they are born, our youngsters are learning. In those earliest interactions with the world around them, there are boundless opportunities to stoke their instincts for discovery and curiosity.
These are the principles that are put into practice at Growing Kids Learning Center. Now nearly 30 years strong with nine facilities throughout northern Indiana, Growing Kids Learning Center has solidified its reputation as a premier force in early childhood education.
Just as compelling, meanwhile, is the concept of families helping families. Who better to embrace that ideology than folks with local roots, nurturing children of their own and truly understanding the specific needs of parents and children?
That was the passionate impetus of Mike and Beth Garatoni, the husband-and-wife team who founded Growing Kids Learning Center in 1995. With young children in their own family, they were drawn to conversations with other new parents. Invariably the discussions would turn to child care facilities, and the Garatonis were becoming disillusioned about the disconnect between what was needed and what was available.
In sharing their story on the Growing Kids website, the Garatonis explain the earliest phases of fulfilling such a mission. “We wanted to offer a service that parents would be excited about – that their child was learning and growing to his or her fullest potential, was safe and clean, was open the hours that parents needed care, and most importantly, gave the parents peace of mind.”
All of the Growing Kids Learning Centers are designed for children as young as six weeks of age, upward to youngsters at age 12. “We are a child care facility that provides educational content in a curriculum-based setting, with lesson plans structured for each stage of a child’s development,” Mike Garatoni says.
Although there is a solid emphasis on learning, there is always time for play, Garatoni notes. Each classroom features supplies, equipment and furniture that are functional, yet appealing for young hands and eyes to take in. The more well-known and loved programs include Main Street, which features the schematics of a small community, where the proportions are suited for little ones while the lessons are on a far grander scale. The children work on motor skills, interactive play, problem-solving skills and make-believe activities.
Minds in Motion is another popular program that utilizes methods of kinesthetic learning, in which children participate in exercises related to balance, hand and eye coordination, and visual movement.
With the advent of 2023, there are changes coming to the classrooms that will benefit both staff and scholars. There are several phases of remodeling taking place, and teachers are being equipped with tablets to provide a more streamlined and effective way to manage the curriculum in this rapidly evolving digital age.
The teaching staff, as well as Garatoni himself, have all noticed the effects of the COVID-19 epidemic and its impact on children. “Social distancing has really taken a toll on the younger kids,” he says. “They are easily stressed. If a child is 3 years old and he’s spent two of those years having to wear a mask, then that’s what he remembers.”
Additionally, Garatoni notes, while strides in technology are extremely crucial to children in the learning process, there are other essential skills that have sometimes fallen by the wayside. Children are forgetting what it means to play and explore outdoors, he says.
“We are taking actions to incorporate natural elements in our playtime, with more reality-based experiences and less screen time,” he says. “We’re featuring sensory activities like playing with nuts and bolts, or making music with pots and pans. We’re encouraging kids to get dirty by offering mud kitchens. We study things like bugs and plants, spending time outdoors, allowing them to interact with the environment.”
After so many years, with the good fortune to be an invaluable stepping stone for countless children, Garatoni says the passion has not wavered, and they remain committed and focused to their original promise. “We truly enjoy what we do,” he says. “We’re rewarded by working with the kids and their families, and we value the trust that they place in us.”
To discover more about what Growing Kids Learning Center can provide for youngsters, including information on enrollment, scheduling and programs, visit growingkids.com.
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