LITTLE FALLS — After several years of running Little Hearn PlaySkool out of her Fort Plain home, Owner/Director Janel Hearn closed the facility Tuesday afternoon. While the closing was bittersweet, Hearn is looking forward to the business’ next chapter, which will officially begin with Monday’s opening of the expansive Little Hearn PlaySkool Childcare Center, LLC in Little Falls.
The new Little Falls child care center, located at 45 Furnace St., provides Hearn with significantly more space for programming in an age-oriented, state-of-the-art, class-style setting. It occupies a large, several room space with the capacity to facilitate 32 children, including a toddler room for five, a pre-school room for 18, and an infant room for eight.
While the facility in Hearn’s home was a group daycare with a routine and structured curriculum, the new Childcare center “is comparable to a school,” she said. The facility operates under a play-based model, with Hearn explaining that tactile activities are important not only in an educational capacity, but also in developing childrens’ cognitive and social-emotional skills.
Hearn, who is currently working towards a Master’s degree in Early Childhood Education, noted that some area childcare facilities are geared toward families who are income qualified. But, she explained, Little Hearn PlaySkool Childcare Center aims to be accepting of a wide range of potential clients, Hearn stating, “I worked really hard to offer it to both sides of the spectrum, so I could offer it to the whole family.”
Hearn said that as Little Hearn PlaySkool Childcare Center is certified through Social Services, she has the capacity to offer Working Families Program tuition, along with other tuition options.
While Hearn explained that she previously loved teaching for Head Start prior to opening her home daycare about three years ago, it was obvious that the local need for daycare expanded beyond just income-qualified families. “I wanted to provide something to meet all the needs of the community,” she said. Obtaining her advanced degree would enable her to meet her goal of providing such a service in the future.
“I worked really hard and put my whole heart into it,” said Hearn of the new, independent center’s opening, for which she received no grant funding. “I’ve really put my whole entire life into this and I’m very excited!”
Little Hearn PlaySkool Childcare Center is a state-of-the-art facility, with security cameras in every room. The infant room has cribs and a “huge, beautiful nursery,” Hearn said, with infants also having access to their own dining area, and a crawl and play space.
Toddlers will have access to their own classroom, a dramatic play area, and a block area with cars. They will also have circle time with their certified teacher.
The pre-school room, pointed out Hearn, is her favorite. She referred to it as the “Mickey and the Roadster Racer Room,” as it contains an indoor race track, a water table, sand art area, a block area, cardboard center, and a media section, where kids are invited to participate in Hooked on Phonics.
The facility also has a fenced-in playground.
Hearn said that the new child care center — which will provide breakfast, lunch and an afternoon snack — is so sizable, teachers will have an easier time keeping the kids as socially distanced as possible. Added Hearn of the facility’s attributes, “Having that classroom environment, you’re able to build that classroom community and have those one-on-one,” interactions, which prepare kids for future endeavors, familiarizing them with a structured schedule.
Ordering the center by age groups also creates a smaller classroom ratio, providing each student more face-time with their teachers. “It’s more developmentally appropriate by age, because they can all participate and meet the goals of the activities they’re doing,” Hearn stated of the facility’s attendees, noting that the new structure provides a significant improvement over her home operation, which mixed kids ranging from 6-weeks-old to 10-years-old.
Hearn has been setting up the new center since September 1, following inspections that took place in July and August. While the pandemic provided roadblocks, they’ve all been overcome. “It’s a bit surreal,” Hearn states, when she thinks about the fact that her new facility is finally ready to open. “It’s a bit surreal. The goal has always been there, but I worked really hard and it came a little bit faster,” than initially expected.
While Little Hearn PlaySkool Childcare Center is not currently offering care for school-age children, Hearn said that it remains a potential future goal. “I have lots of dreams,” Hearn said, “But, we’re just going to take the first step and get through that.”
Issuing appreciation to all families and individuals that have supported Hearn in her years-long journey to open a facility such as Little Hearn PlaySkool Childcare Center, she stated, “A huge thank you to all the families that have helped me get to where I am, and all the love and support to get where we’re going on this new adventure.
“Without the parents, I wouldn’t have anything. It’s been an honor to have the parents’ trust.”
To contact Little Hearn PlaySkool Childcare Center, LLC, which will host a Grand Opening this Friday at 9 a.m., call (315) 508-5050.