Smart Start: New child care center focuses on health and wellness

Jordan Anderson, Taylor Anderson, and Mabelle Neilson play family at Smart Start child care center on Tuesday morning. (Gazette staff photo by Avery Cropp)

A new child care center with an emphasis on health and wellness just opened last week.

For owner Gina Anderson, RN, it just made sense. So she combined her love for family, her connection with children and her interest in health and wellness to create Smart Start Childcare and Learning Center.

“The biggest factor for me as a mother of two young children was to create a center that meets the parents needs,” Anderson said.

Anderson aims to make her new center all about quality, to enhance the traditional childcare experience through education, nutrition, exercise, relaxation, illness reduction and prevention, and creative projects that promote a healthy, happy and secure learning environment.

“As a nurse I’ve had 11 years of experience in education and have been very health and wellness-focused,” Anderson said.  “Teaching kids to make healthy decisions, like about why exercise, nutrition and rest and relaxation are important and fun, and helping them learn these things early on can play a role in a better, healthier life,” Anderson said.

Her center caters to infants, toddlers and preschoolers and has an emphasis on individualization as well as incorporating nature, activity, and emergent curriculum that’s always evolving according to Anderson.

The center has three separate rooms for the various ages of students and one room that is used for exercise and activities. There is also a place for the children to play outside and a small shed near the center that will serve as an artist studio in all kinds of weather.

A typical day is structured but with enough free time to let the kids make choices about what they wish to do.

Center instructors, Kelsey Cassidy and Sonia Schlief, who run the preschool and infant rooms respectively are really happy to be working at this new business.

“We really want to do something a little different. We want to create a structured environment but give kids the benefit of choice and choose our activities in our classrooms, we tailor the lessons to the interests of our students, like right now we’re doing a lot with fall since it’s a big change in their lives and they’re noticing what’s happening,” Cassidy said. “We’re about building a whole child and creating social, emotional and physical growth every day.”

The day begins at 6 a.m. when children arrive and they wash their hands, have breakfast, exercise, have a snack, do some art or have special visitors followed by some time outside, quiet time, story time along with some more exercise (right now it’s yoga) and outdoor activities and rounded off with choice time before they leave. The center also has a hot catered lunch and snacks throughout the day that fulfills the nutritional aspects that children need along with fresh fruits and vegetables.

“I’ve worked in childcare for about 12 years now and I absolutely love it here, I love the whole philosophy,” Schleif said. “I think it’s really an awesome place and people will like it.”

The feedback that Anderson has gotten from parents of Smart Start children overall is positive.

“They really love it here, we have kids that run in the door because they’re so excited to be here and one little boy was crying because he had to leave the other day. We’ve had a lot of parents bring their kids in for part time care at first and then expand to full time care and I think that it’s because when they come in they get a feeling of a safe, secure and organized space that will suit their children well,” Anderson said.

She is expecting to have eight infants and is licensed to have 14 toddlers and 17 preschool children at first. Enrollment is now open. There is a $100 enrollment fee, infants cost $269/week, toddlers cost $224/week and preschoolers cost $213/week. The business is located off the Stillwater Frontage Road on the north side of 36. For more information on the business check out or call Anderson at 651-280-0188.

Contact Avery Cropp at [email protected]