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New day care center to teach kids sign language, yoga

Little Minds Learning Center will open its first Minnesota location in the Woodbury area this spring. Submitted photo

A new day care center that specializes in "over-communicating" with parents will soon open in the Woodbury area.

Little Minds Learning Center, which was established in Hudson and has two other locations in Wisconsin, is making its way to Minnesota with a building near Radio Drive and Interstate 94.

The center is currently under construction and is slated for a May opening.

Little Minds Learning Center uses a nationally accredited curriculum that includes math, science, literacy and physical development, as well as Spanish, sign language and yoga.

The mission of the center is to provide a "premier experience," launch director Megan Gaulke said, for children starting at just 6 weeks old.

"All the way up until they go to kindergarten," she added.

Center officials are in the process of hiring full-time teachers as well as part-time employees, including a food and nutrition specialist to run a full commercial kitchen.

"Everything is as homemade as we can possibly make it," Gaulke said. "Everything is really healthy."

The first Minnesota location, technically located in Oakdale, will serve a total of 104 kids, including some from Woodbury.

Little Minds Learning Center will have seven classrooms in its 7,700 square-foot space. There will be a specific teacher-to-child ratio for each age, ranging from eight kids in the infant classrooms to 14 in the toddler and 20 in the preschool age classes.

The ratios are set by the Department of Children and Families, Gaulke said, which makes it difficult for area parents to find day care for their children especially at the infant stage.

"It's tough for people to find infant care that they really want," Gaulke said. "I think that's why a lot of places fill up fast. Some places don't even have infant care, they start at toddler."

Owners Todd and Stacy Barnhardt opened the first Little Minds location in Hudson seven years ago when they couldn't find the child care they needed.

The couple then decided to expand to River Falls and Onalaska, Wis., in 2011.

And when the demand from this side of the border grew, they decided to open the Oakdale location, Gaulke said.

As Little Minds began opening centers in different school districts, they started working with local teachers to see what they expect the kids to have learned before they enter kindergarten, she said.

Little Minds is known for "over-communicating" with parents, Gaulke added.

As a parent of two children who attend Little Minds in River Falls, she said she knows first-hand that parents like to know what their kids are up to on a daily basis.

The center is equipped with webcams in the classrooms that allow parents to watch 10-minute intervals from a password-protected portal on the website.

"A lot of parents find comfort in that because they know what the teachers are doing," Gaulke said.

And it doesn't make the teachers feel like they're being spied on either.

"You're way too busy with the kids to even notice it," said Gaulke, who was a teacher at the Hudson center.

The center will be open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday and by appointment between 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturdays.

The center prides itself in crafting daily sheets of the child's day and sending it home with the kids, in addition to having teachers who blog on the website to keep parents posted.

"I never have to worry. I access the camera just like any parent to check on my kids," Gaulke said. "My kids learn a ton while they're there. My 1-year-old is already doing sign language."

Riham Feshir
Riham Feshir is a reporter and photographer for the Woodbury Bulletin. Her coverage includes Woodbury City Hall, Washington County Board of Commissioners and business news.  Follow Riham on Twitter @RihamFeshir for the latest updates.