“We wanted something located in our community,” says Lawrence McKinney, whose family lives five miles away from the center. “We also wanted our children to be cared for in a place that reflected the people who live around them.”
Charmaine McKinney was familiar with Wilder from her childhood. She didn’t go to the center, but her aunt lived across the street from it. When she and her husband started to research child care options, they were drawn to Wilder’s long-time presence in the community.
The McKinneys sent all four of their children – now 22, 15, 12 and 5 – to the full-time child care and preschool. The youngest recently graduated and began kindergarten this fall.
Child care that feels like family
Choosing the Wilder Child Development Center for their youngest son’s care was an easy decision after the great experience the McKinneys had with his sisters. They appreciated all of the ways Wilder creates a supportive and fun early education environment for young children.
“We knew the teachers,” Lawrence says. “Some of them have been there since the oldest went. It’s like family.”
This family atmosphere is intentionally nurtured by Wilder Child Development Center. Staff and teachers care for more than the children; they also support the entire family.
“We work hard to reach all of the members of the family” says Donyella Smith, family program coordinator at the center. “We believe in a hands-on approach to support everyone through any barriers or challenges a family may face.”
Depending on the family situation, that support may include financial assistance or mental health counseling. Family support also means encouraging parents to join an advisory group, inviting them to volunteer in the classroom, and welcoming them to participate in family friendly activities.
“This keeps our families connected,” Donyella says. “They can arrange play dates with each other or talk about parenting concerns. It’s about building relationships with other families.”
Social-emotional learning prepares kids for kindergarten
In addition to the family atmosphere, the McKinneys appreciate how the preschool curriculum prepared their children for kindergarten. The center incorporates social-emotional instruction that teaches preschoolers how to handle frustrations with words instead of other behaviors. Practicing these skills helps children get ready for the academic work they need to do in school, too.
“Kids need to be socially ready for kindergarten,” Lawrence says. “If they don’t have social courtesy or character, kindergarten can be difficult. We know that (our son) is ready to learn.”
The family, who is African American, also values the diverse races and cultures represented by the center’s children, families and staff.
“Being in a diverse environment prepares our children for the world,” Lawrence says. “There can be other difficulties when a kid’s race is under-represented. We wanted to give our kids a taste of the world. We wanted them to go to the kind of place they’d surround themselves when they’re older.”
The Wilder Child Development Center is a Head Start co-location site. It is NAEYC accredited and has the highest rating from Parent Aware. These recognitions signify the high quality early childhood experiences that Wilder provides.
“They do a good job of overall educational experience -- both academic and social,” Lawrence says. “It’s been a great experience for our entire family.”