Woodbury's McClure honored for daycare services
If she’s not being creative and teaching kids something new every day, Kristen McClure is browsing the Internet and planning new lesson plans for “Lil’ Critters Childcare.”
The Woodbury day care provider was honored by Washington County last week as one of two Day Care Providers of the Year in conjunction with the Minnesota Licensed Family Child Care Association’s conference.
McClure has been a day care provider for 13 years and watched many of the children grow from infant to middle school age.
Her inspiration to start a day care came from her own experience as a child, but she tends to focus more on implementing new ways for children to learn while playing.
“Years ago, day care was just kind of play and there really wasn’t preschool involved in it,” she said. “I really enjoy that part of it and teaching the kids new ways.”
From colors, shapes, numbers and letters to the natural process of planting and a butterfly garden, McClure tries to plan a new lesson each day that preps children for kindergarten.
Lil’ Critters Childcare was recently awarded a one star rating by Parents Aware for School Readiness for efforts in keeping parents in the loop and providing resources for them. McClure strives to continue earning more stars as she develops a deeper curriculum.
Washington County’s community services supervisor Suzanne Pollack said parents say McClure is always warm and welcoming with both parents and children and seeks information at drop off times about how the previous night went for the child.
“She is very good about communicating with us. She sends us weekly emails with the week’s lesson plan on them,” she said, quoting parents. “She gives a detailed report of the child’s day when we pick them up.”
McClure is enrolled in the food program and tries to avoid highly processed foods, Pollack said. One of her day care kids only eats organic foods.
Parents praised McClure for her ability to help new moms and dads transition back into their busy lives.
“When asked what impact their provider has on children’s lives, parents say that ‘Kristen was really helpful to us when we were new parents,’” Pollack said. “She was able to get our child on a good schedule that was very helpful to us at home.”
McClure incorporates plenty of activities into her Lil’ Critters Childcare, including an outdoor slip-and-slide in the summer, walking to the local Puppet Wagon and art projects when they’re not able to spend time outdoors.
McClure has a total of 11 kids in her center. She has cared for children with special needs, varying ages and cultural backgrounds. She hopes to continue with the Parent Aware process and eventually become a four-star rated program.
“When I was younger, we just played. It was a great experience; we had fun,” she said. “But now we have purpose for our play. When we’re playing, the kids don’t know it but we’re trying to teach them something while they’re playing.”
Though it can be tough to incorporate a preschool program, which is not mandatory through the licensing process, McClure said it helps the youngsters get introduced to letters and numbers much younger so they’re familiar with it when entering kindergarten.
“We didn’t learn to read until first, second grade and now the kids are reading in kindergarten,” she said. “It can be challenging, but the kids just pick it up so fast. They’re like sponges; they seem to soak it all up.”
Washington County recognizes two child care providers every year – one from the north end and one from the south end of the county. The county honored Amelia Matheson of Hugo along with McClure at the Tuesday, June 10 board meeting.
Individuals in the community nominate providers through an application process and the applications are reviewed by an ad hoc committee from the Washington County Child Care Council with representation from the Minnesota Licensed Family Child Care Association.
County officials say the County Board publicly acknowledged their achievement and success in their career as early childhood educators and caregivers to help increase awareness of quality child care.