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2013’s Best Preschools & Daycares

by Colleen Patrice Clark, Evelyn Townsend

Many of us know the feeling of dropping your child off at daycare for the first time and you can’t help but become overwhelmed with bittersweet emotions. Yes, there’s an abundance of valuable social skills and interactions that will take place within those schools walls, but that’s not always enough to calm the mind of a nervous parent, let alone a shy child about to embark on an entirely unfamiliar learning experience.

That’s why we sent surveys out to dozens of area preschools and daycares to narrow down this list, and from the information gathered, we ranked them in areas from teacher/student ratios to parent communication. And we found out some fun perks along the way, like schools that offer French lessons, karate clubs and even yoga.

Picking the best daycare or preschool for your child is one of the first big decisions we as parents make when raising our children; but hopefully, this list of 24 of the area’s best will help make it one of the easiest.

ABC Academy Preschool
901 Route 168, Suite 402, Turnersville, (856) 374-7100, ABCPrivatePreschool.com
Hours: 9:30 a.m. to noon or 1 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. Programs: Nursery Program (Tuesdays and Thursdays) and Pre-K Program (Monday, Wednesday and Friday). Fees: $21 per session, paid monthly, including sibling discounts. ages: 3-5. Waitlist: Occasional a.m. waitlist
As you can see, this school operates on a part-time schedule, so while it’s not the ideal choice for a full-time working family, it’s just the place for a parent who works part time or a stay-at-home mom who wants her child to get an early start. With just 21 children per session, you can rest assured your child is receiving close attention and guidance from this staff—made up entirely of bachelor-degree holding teachers who have spent 20 years together. (Low turnover is always a good sign.) Offering everything from math and science to music and dance time, the school director states: “We believe in developing the whole child. We are structured but stress free.”

Beechwood School
441 Beechwood Ave., Haddonfield, (856) 429-0303, TheBeechwoodSchool.com
Hours: 7:15 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Programs: Morning, afternoon or full day, two to five days per week. Fees: $1,020 per month for full time/five days; $430-650 for part time/five days. Ages: 2 ½-6. Waitlist: Yes
The 30-year-old family-owned Beechwood School believes children develop at their own pace if given the right time and encouragement. The school sits on more than an acre of land with two outdoor playgrounds. Children must be potty-trained to attend and are taught with a play-based, adaptive curriculum, according to the different developmental levels. Teachers record each student’s social, intellectual and physical progress, then pass that info along to parents through at least two parent-teacher conferences a year. Communication is key here, so parents are always kept informed, including monthly newsletters and “ouch notes” if a student is hurt or scraped during playtime. Enrollment is kept intimate, with only about 100 students in all, so parents should apply now for a summer or September start.

Blooming Buds Childcare Center
700 Second St., Suites A and B, Swedesboro, (856) 241-7611, BloomingBudsChildcare.net
Hours: 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Programs: Infants, toddlers, preschool and pre-K, half-day preschool and pre-K. Fees: $175-$205 a week/$42-$48 a day, $27 a day for half-day programs. Ages: 6 weeks to 6 years. Waitlist: Yes, for certain classes
The husband and wife owners hold several degrees between them: Both have bachelor’s degrees in psychology and elementary education, while one has a master’s in school counseling and the other in school leadership (and one is a principal in a nearby school). The pre-K and preschool teachers hold degrees, and all staff are first aid and CPR certified. Understanding that not all children reach milestones at the same time, the center focuses on three broad-ranging curriculums that includes all the basics—like phonics and fine motor skills—along with a physical education program, sign language and Spanish introduction. Located conveniently in downtown Swedesboro, walking field trips are also offered to spots like the local library and pizza shop.

Bright Beginnings Academy/Brighten Academy
315 Fries Mill Road, Sewell, (856) 582-1144; 1600 Chapel Ave. W., Suite 200, Cherry Hill, (856) 438-5821; BBANJ.net
Hours: 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. programs: Half and full day for two to five days a week. Fees: Varies, includes $825 a month for full-time schedule in Sewell, $995 and below for full time in Cherry Hill depending on age range. Ages: Infants through kindergarten in Cherry Hill; 2 ½ through first grade in Sewell. Waitlist: Yes, for certain classes
While the Cherry Hill location opened in 2011, the original Sewell spot has been serving children since 1978 and boasts newly renovated classrooms, an up-to-date security system with electronic doors and cameras, and iPads to check children in and out. The school has two outdoor play areas as well as an indoor gym, and the modern curriculum utilizes SMART Board technology with the Hatch Program, which includes 20-30 minute lessons covering more than 2,500 activities in reading, math, social studies and science. An optional Computer Explorers program also helps prepare students for 21st century learning. Other enrichment programs include Soccer Shots, Yoga Birdies, Jump Bunch and more. All of the teachers here hold bachelor’s degrees or higher, and some assistants even have degrees as high as master’s.

Bright Beginnings West
536 Lambs Road, Pitman, (856) 256-1166, BrightBeginningsWest.com
Hours: 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Programs: Two to five full-days schedule or two- to five-day a.m. schedule (9 a.m. to noon), or a combination of both. Fees: $175-$210 for five full days, $74-$210 for a.m. program. Ages: 2 through kindergarten. Waitlist: Yes, depending on class schedule
While the focus is on education, the director here stresses that her staff—one in which all head teachers hold degrees and some aides hold associate’s—allows time to develop socially, emotionally and physically. The colorful murals throughout the school help create a world of imagination for the 125 students, and the two acres of land, including an enclosed playground and open field, allow for plenty of outdoor time. There is open enrollment here all year, and regular communication with parents through newsletters, notes, a Facebook page and more. If you want to get involved, there’s always opportunities to chaperone a class trip, party, or just to read to the children. Or, just pop in any time to see what’s going on thanks to the school’s open-door policy.

Childtime Learning Center
137 Jackson Road, Medford, (609) 953-5497, Childtime.com
Hours: 6:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Programs: Full day and half day for infants through kindergarten. Flex scheduling or a “Flex Care Pass” also available. Fees: $212-$250 for full time, $159-$188 for half days. Ages: 6 weeks to 12 years old (with summer programs available for older children). Waitlist: No
Childtime strives to nurture your child’s natural curiosity through investigation, exploration, story and play; we’re sure their indoor tree house plays a large role in that. An impressive 95 percent of teachers hold bachelor’s degrees in education, and they use the center’s “The Empowered Child” curriculum, which adheres to the guidelines set forth by the National Association for the Education of Young Children. Along with hands-on, sensory-oriented activities, extra perks include their optional programming: dance, soccer, tumbling, full-day summer camp, and monthly Parents Night Out events.

Colors of the Rainbow Learning Center
401 N. Kings Hwy., Cherry Hill, (856) 667-0962, ColorsInRainbows.com
Hours: 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Programs: Full-day only for two to five days. Fees: $105-$175. Ages: 6 weeks to 5 years. Waitlist: No
The director at Colors of the Rainbow describes the school as a “nurturing school that devotes themselves to their children, families and teaching values” through small class sizes on their private, wooded grounds. Their approach is that children learn through play, which is accomplished through a focus on cognitive, social, physical and faith-based development. While 50 percent of the staff holds child development associate certifications, all are first aid and CPR certified. Language and literacy lessons are paired with math, science and free play here, and teachers communicate with parents through daily written reports and activity logs.

Congregation M’Kor Shalom
850 Evesham Road, Cherry Hill, (856) 424-7339, MkorShalom.org
Hours: 9:15 a.m.-3:15 p.m. with early and late care available. Programs: Half-day and full-day options depending on age. Fees: $1,950-$8,495 a year. Ages: 2-6 years. Waitlist: Yes, for certain classes
Boasting teacher/student ratios as low as 4:1 here at this 130-student preschool, M’Kor Shalom also reports that all but one of the lead teachers holds a minimum of a bachelor’s degree. There are also five women on staff with master’s degrees. Using a play-centered sensory approach to learning, M’Kor Shalom is housed in a 44,000-square-foot building that includes classrooms, a multi-purpose room, music room, gym and playground. There are attendance incentives, including free synagogue membership, and regular parental communication including parent-teacher conferences, monthly newsletters and daily notes.

Discovery Corner Childcare & Enrichment Center
53 Haddonfield Road, Suite 322, Cherry Hill, (856) 667-6333, DiscoveryCornerKids.com
Hours: 6:30 a.m.-6 p.m. Programs: Full-day and half-day schedule options. Fees: Starting at $215 for full days and $150 for half days. Ages: 6 weeks to 12 years. Waitlist: No
While they provide everything from art and Spanish classes to computer time and math programming thanks to a partnership with Mathnasium, one of the best benefits might be that there’s one less thing to worry about every morning as Discover Corner offers breakfast, a snack and lunch at no extra cost—though the help they offer with potty training comes in a close second. There are also bonus classes like dance, karate and gymnastics, and burning energy is guaranteed with their outdoor play area combined with indoor fun and fitness room.

Excel Learning Center
74 E. Main St., Marlton, (856) 596-2224, ExcelLearningCenter.org
Hours: 7 a.m.-6 p.m. Programs: Half day, full day, before and after school. Fees:­ $113-$264 a week. Ages: 6 weeks to 13 years. Waitlist: Yes, for infants
Housed in a historical building on Main Street, Excel Learning Center provides an environment for learning, with dedication to “Excel-lence in Education.” This includes daily schedules catered to individualized learning, reading and writing, foreign languages, computer time and more. Excel boasts a low teacher to student ratio and an onsite library. Parents have easy access to the learning center through newsletters and blogs and twice-a-year parent-teacher conferences. Unannounced visits are always permitted, and volunteer opportunities are also open. Parents: Keep in mind that registration for fall programs began in January.

First Presbyterian Preschool
20 Kings Hwy. E., Haddonfield, (856) 429-0609, HaddonfieldPres.org
Hours: 9 a.m.-11:30 a.m. or 12:20 p.m. to 2:50 p.m. Programs: Mother’s Morning Out, for children ages 1 year and 4 months to 2 years and 5 months, or nursery school for children 2 ½ to 6 years. Fees: Vary depending on age and program. Pre-K is approximately $2,300 per year for 9-11:30 a.m., five days per week. Ages: 1 year and 4 months to 6 years. Waitlist: Yes
First Presbyterian Preschool provides two programs, for which registration begins a year ahead of time: Mother’s Morning Out and Nursery School, each with schedules that are age-appropriate for the children. There are many opportunities for learning with the full curriculum, and each child is given specialized attention to match abilities with the material. The curriculum also includes socialization and building self-esteem, and computer learning time for the older children. The beautiful murals created by the school’s own creative arts instructor help brighten young learners’ days at this school, where the majority of employees have bachelor’s degrees or above, and all are trained in CPR and first aid. There are two separate play areas for age levels, an elevator for convenience, and a security system to protect the children.

Four Seasons Children’s Center
1190 S. Church St., Mount Laurel, (856) 866-0444
Hours: 7 a.m.-6 p.m. Programs: Full-time and part-time options for infants, tiny tots, toddlers, preschoolers, after-school groups, kindergarten and school-aged children. Ages: Infants to 11. Waitlist: Occasionally
The curriculum here includes computer tots, sign language and foreign language, nature and geography, and it’s all based on the season; hence the name. The winter session includes studying the harsher weather, while come springtime, the days might include strawberry picking or a trike-a-thon for St. Jude’s. (The summer camp offering includes daily swimming.) Snacks and drinks are provided at no exra cost at Four Seasons, and occasionally the students will make their own treats as well. Programs are always geared toward helping each child develop habits of observation, questioning and listening, and each class sends home a daily activity sheet.

Friends Academy of Westampton
315 Bridge St., Westampton, (609) 267-8198, FriendsAcademy.net
Hours: 8:30 a.m.-3 p.m., with before and after care available from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Programs: Preschool (five full or half days), along with full-day pre-K and kindergarten. Fees: ­$8,600 for full day, based on the school year, and $5,300 for half day. Ages: Preschool through eighth grade. Waitlist: No
By the time students move from preschool to kindergarten at this Quaker school—where schoolwide service requirements are a must—they’ve received a curriculum including physical education, music, computers, library and art. Once in kindergarten, they enjoy a full program including reading, writing, math, science, social studies and Spanish. Since the school extends through eighth grade, the preschoolers and kindergarteners benefit from older student mentors. They also enjoy nearly 14 acres of land, a fenced playground and large gymnasium. The admissions process began in January and includes a playdate for preschool and pre-K children and testing for kindergartners.

The Goddard School
250 Springdale Road, Cherry Hill, (856) 751-7234; 10 Jennings Road, Medford, (609) 714-8686; 235 Strawbridge Drive, Moorestown, (856) 235-7006; 2026D Briggs Road, Mount Laurel, (856) 727-4222; 233 N. Main St., Mullica Hill, (856) 478-4045; 3 Plaza Drive, Sewell, (856) 256-8200; 553 Beckett Road, Swedesboro, (856) 467-8477; 1121 Haddonfield-Berlin Road, Voorhees, (856) 346-1234; GoddardSchool.com
Hours: 7 a.m.-6 p.m. Programs: Morning, afternoon, full day, two to five days per week. Fees: Vary depending on age and schedule. Contact the individual school for information. Ages: Infant through kindergarten. Waitlist: Yes, in some classrooms
All teachers are degreed and certified at these schools, which offer classrooms, exploration areas and outdoor playground facilities for infants, toddlers, preschool and after-school students. The learning environment focuses on the school’s “flex learning” curriculum, which revolves around personal/social development, mathematical thinking, and science and technology to help your child develop the four Cs—communication, collaboration, critical thinking and creativity. Teachers attend programs at Goddard University to learn cutting-edge techniques and skills. For an extra fee, children can also sign on for art expression classes. Parents considering an application should apply at least six months in advance for infants, and at least three months in advance for older children.

Haddonfield Friends School
47 N. Haddon Ave., Haddonfield, (856) 429-6786, HaddonfieldFriends.org
Hours: 8:10 a.m.-3:30 p.m., with extended day programs from 7:15 a.m.- 6 p.m. Programs: Half and full day options for preschool, full day for kindergarten. Fees: $5,030-$15,500. Ages: 2 ½ through eighth grade. Waitlist: Yes, for some ages
Haddonfield Friends School is a co-educational school serving children from age 2 ½ to eighth grade. They believe the best education is one that inspires within children an insatiable curiosity to learn. The school has two buildings on campus. The main school building is home to kindergarten through grade eight. The Early Childhood Center is home to the three preschool classes, an auditorium/multipurpose space, and a fully enclosed playground for the preschool children. At Haddonfield Friends School, the curriculum is progressive, timely and relevant to today’s world. All students have weekly classes with a full range of special teachers: music, Spanish, physical education, library and, in kindergarten and older, art, too.

Just Children
130 Medford-Mount Holly Road, Medford, (609) 714-2244; 14000 J. Commerce Parkway, Mount Laurel, (856) 234-8687; 1001 Briggs Road, Suite 260, Mount Laurel, (856) 840-0880; Routes 38 and 295, Mount Laurel, (856) 642-7676; JustChildren.net
Hours: 6:30 a.m.-6 p.m. Programs: Two to five day half-day program, two to five day full- or half-day options. Fees: Starting at $220 for five full days and $110 for five half days. Ages: 8 weeks through kindergarten. Waitlist: Occasionally
One of the standout perks is that it’s one of the few preschools in South Jersey using an app program, Tadpoles, for daily communication with parents. With the capacity to send pictures, videos and daily activity reports, parents are constantly in the loop. The school offers teacher discounts, as well as four free weeks for anyone enrolled in a full year. The unique curriculum is crafted around a thematic-based program, which guides lesson plans with dramatic play, stories, arts and crafts. Phonics and handwriting begins with young ones learning a letter of the week, progressing up to sight words and a comprehensive reading program. Spanish, science lessons and a fit kids program also help round out the curriculum.

The Learning Experience
421 Third Ave., Cherry Hill, (856) 662-6002; 401 S. Burnt Mill Road, Voorhees, (856) 346-4140; TheLearningExperience.com
Hours: 6:30 a.m.-6:30 p.m. Programs: Full- and half-day schedules, both part and full time. Fees: Fees vary depending on age. Ages: 6 weeks to 8 years. Waitlist: Yes, depending on age
The Learning Experience refers to their schools as “Academies of Early Education,” because, as they say, they are “more than just child care centers.” Due to their focus on developing children mentally, physically, emotionally and socially, they boast that nearly 90 percent of their attendees are reading by the time they enter kindergarten. The school also considers the structure of the building itself and how it affects learning, making sure the building is designed in an ergonomical way that’ll help boost the learning experience. Their Charlie Choo Choo enrichment programs help with that as well: Expect music, math, science, dance, yoga, performing arts and physical fitness at no extra cost.

Little Ambassadors Preschool
535 Mullica Hill Road, Glassboro, (856) 881-3669 ext. 104, Facebook.com/LittleAmbassadorsPreschool
Hours: 6:30 a.m.-6:30 p.m. Programs: Full-day and half-day schedules. Fees: $130-$165 a week. Ages: 18 months to 3 ye­ars. Waitlist: No
As part of the Ambassador Christian Academy (K-8th grade), the preschool has access to a full facility with playgrounds, soccer fields, a gymnasium and a library. Reading and writing are taught via a traditional phonics-based curriculum—the Abeka Curriculum—with a Biblical foundation. Another benefit of being attached to the elementary school is that the K4 students are offered specialized music and Spanish classes, gym class and on-site piano lessons. All teachers have a degree in early and/or elementary education. The academy and preschool, run by Calvary Hill Church, sends home daily reports to parents and also offers text alerts and more.

The Malvern School
2920 Erial Road, Gloucester Township, (856) 784-4100; 5 Eayrestown Road, Medford, (609) 654-4500; 515 Centennial Blvd., Voorhees, (856) 489-4440; 329 Greentree Road, Sewell, (856) 218-2300; MalvernSchool.com
Hours: 6:30 a.m.-6 p.m. Programs: Flexible scheduling offered through full/partial weeks, full and half days. Fees: Costs vary by age and schedule and is discussed during a parent visit. Ages: Infant through pre-K. Waitlist: No
With several schools accredited by The National Association for the Education of Young Children, The Malvern School offers a curriculum based on your child’s age and developmental level, and includes developing and enhancing fine and gross motor skills; multicultural awareness; social and emotional development; self-help skills; language development; music and movement; and arts and crafts. The variety of educational spaces—including two floors of classroom space as well as specialty rooms—helps to accomplish this. The importance of giving back to the community is also stressed at an early age here, as The Malvern School is one of the top 100 supporters of Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation. All schools host events and involve families in raising funds for the organization.

Montessori Child Development Center
26 W. Main St., Marlton, (856) 983-1101, MCDCmarlton.com
Hours: 7:30 a.m.-6 p.m. Programs: Half-and full-day options for two to five days a week. Fees: $830-$950 a month for full day, $660-$735 for half day. Ages: 2 through kindergarten. Waitlist: Occasionally
Along with a complete curriculum to prepare children for the challenges of first grade, the Montessori Child Development Center also provides an enrichment program with different classes, depending on the day of the week. Examples include cooking, Spanish, a tennis club, and music (think violin). Monday through Thursday also has p.m. clubs, with sports, music, Spanish and Chinese clubs. All teachers have bachelor’s degrees or better, and all others are Montessori certified.

Moorestown Children’s School
760 Garwood Road, Moorestown, (856) 235-9040, MoorestownChildrensSchool.com
Hours: 7 a.m.-6:30 p.m. Programs: half day, full day, one to five days per week. Fees: $150-170 per week for half days/five days; $215-245 per week for full days/five days. Ages: Infants to kindergarten, after school up to sixth grade. Waitlist: No
You’ll find a unique balance of nature and technology here, as the school is housed on an 11-acre farm where nature walks, stream studies and outdoor play are all part of the experience. Plus, iPads and other technology are used to enhance teaching whenever appropriate. With just 40 students, the program is designed to challenge each child while offering them fun, a sense of belonging and plenty of excitement. Children are grouped not just by age but also by readiness, interest level and personality, ensuring that each child is able to thrive—far from a one-size-fits-all approach.

Rancocas Friends
201 Main St., Rancocas, (609) 267-1265, RancocasFriendsSchool.org
Hours: 9 a.m.-3 p.m., with extended care till 6 p.m. Programs: Half day and full day, five days a week. Fees: $6,050 per year for full time/five days; $5,050 per year for part time/five days a week. Ages: 3 ½ to 6. Waitlist: Sometimes
Rancocas Friends is unique in that it’s the only one-room schoolhouse still operating in Burlington County. Their mission is to provide academic and social support while upholding Quaker values, as seen through their regular community servic and peace projects. The program is a multi-sensory one that utilizes readiness skills, language arts, math, science, French, art and music. Extra enrichment programs also include activities and field trips—such as an annual science trek to Long Beach Island—as well as sharing visiting programs with other independent schools, and the kids love the ample outdoor space that includes an amphitheater. One hundred percent of the school’s teachers hold degrees, in early childhood education and psychology, or a kindergarten certification.

Sari Isdaner Early Childhood Center at the Katz JCC
1301 Springdale Road, Cherry Hill, (856) 424-4444 ext. 1242, KatzJCC.org
Hours: 7 a.m.-6:15 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 7 a.m.-6 p.m. Friday. Programs: Infant/toddler care, preschool, kindergarten, summer camp, enrichment classes, parent/child classes; half-, school- and full-day schedules are offered for most programs. Fees: $2,841-$17,400 annually. Ages: 6 weeks through kindergarten. Waitlist: Yes, for some ages
The National Association for the Education of Young Children-accredited program encourages the development of children’s inner resources: curiosity, creativity, independence, love of learning and self-esteem. With 16 classrooms for the student body of 300, Sari Isdaner offers indoor and outdoor playgrounds and pools (including swim lessons through the Lenny Krayzelburg Swim Academy), gym, interactive play wall, exergaming studio, computers and SMART Boards. Foreign language instruction at this faith-based learning center begins with Hebrew in kindergarten, while Spanish enrichment is also available, along with an enrichment dance class. Enrollment for the community began in mid-January.

Shining Lights Early Childhood Center
1721 Springdale Road, Cherry Hill, (856) 424-4915, ShiningLightsOnline.org
Hours: 7 a.m.- 6 p.m. Programs: Full and half day. Fees: $200 weekly for full day; $60 weekly for half day. Ages: 6 weeks through kindergarten. Waitlist: Yes, once the school year begins
With many programs divided by age throughout the year, including summer camps, the Shining Lights Early Childhood Center believes in its responsibility to teach its children and keep them safe. Shining Lights is fully accredited by the Association of Christian Schools International (ASCI), and takes the time to assess every child twice a year, along with sending out daily reports and monthly newsletters, along with emails. Kids can expect computer learning time here, along with a playtime that a rainy day can’t stop thanks to their indoor gym. Remember that registration here begins in the spring, and there’s also gigatykes and soccer shots enrichment programs, along with summer programs for infants through sixth-graders.

Student-to-Teacher Ratios
We asked for student-teacher ratios for all age groups at each school. There’s a state guideline for each age group (4:1 for infants, 6:1 for toddlers, 10:1 for 2 ½ to 4 years, 12:1 for 4-year-olds and 15:1 for 5-year-olds). Some schools have smaller ratios than required, sometimes due to a smaller enrollment overall.

ABC Academy Preschool: 7:1 for nursery, 10:1 for pre-K
Beechwood School: 6:1 all ages
Blooming Buds Childcare Center: 4:1 for infant room, 5:1 for toddlers, 10:1 for preschool, 15:1 for pre-K
Bright Beginnings Academy: 4:1 for infants, 6:1 for 18 months to 2 ½, 10:1 up to 4 years, 12:1 for 4 years, 15:1 for 5 years and up
Bright Beginnings West: 7:1 for 3 years, 10:1 for 4-6 years
Childtime Learning Center: 4:1 for infants, 6:1 for toddlers, 10:1 for preschool, 12:1 for pre-K, 15:1 for kindergarten
Colors of the Rainbow Learning Center: 4:1 for infants-18 months, 6:1 for 18-24 months, 9:1 for 3-5 years
Congregation M’Kor Shalom: 4:1 for 2 years, 7:1 for 3 years, 8:1 for 4 years, 5:1 for 5 years
Discovery Corner Childcare & Enrichment Center: 4:1 for infants to 18 months, 6:1 for 18 months to 2 ½, 10:1 for 2 ½ to 3 years, 10:1 for 3-4 years
Excel Learning Center: 4:1 for infants, 7:1 for toddlers and young 3s, 10:1 for 3 years, 12:1 for 4 years, 15:1 for 5 years, 7:1 for kindergarten, 15:1 for before/after care
First Presbyterian Preschool: 4:1 for 1 year and four months to 1 year and seven months, 5:1 for 1 year and eight months to 2 ½; 5:1 for 2 ½, 5:1 for 3 years, 8:1 for 4 and 5 years
Four Seasons Children’s Center: 3:1 for infants, 7:1 for preschool
Friends Academy of Westampton: 10:1 all ages
The Goddard School: Maximum of 4:1 for infants, 6:1 for toddlers, 10:1 for preschool and pre-K
Haddonfield Friends School: 6:1 for 2 ½ to 3 ½, 7:1 up to 4 ½, 8:1 up to 5 ½, 9:1 for kindergarten
Just Children: 4:1 for infants/toddlers, 6:1 for 2 years and young 3s, 10:1 for preschool and pre-K
The Learning Experience: 4:1 for infants, 5:1 for toddlers, 6:1 for twaddlers, 10:1 for preppers preschool, 12:1 for preschool 2
Little Ambassadors Preschool: 5:1 for toddlers, 8:1 for preschool, 9:1 for K4
The Malvern School: 4:1 for infants, 6:1 for toddlers, 10:1 for preschool, 10:1 for pre-K
Montessori Child Development Center: 15:2 all ages
Moorestown Children’s School: 4:1 for infants, 6:1 for toddlers, 10:1 for preschool, 12:1 for pre-K
Rancocas Friends: 7:1, maximum of 10:1
Sari Isdaner: 4:1 for infants, 6:1 for 24-35 months, 9:1 for 3 years, 10:1 for 4 years, 12:1 for kindergarten
Shining Lights Early Childhood Center: a maximum of 4:1 for infants and toddlers, 7:1 for 2 ½ and 3 years, and 12:1 for 4 years and kindergarten

Parent and Teacher Communication
We looked at how each center keeps parents involved in their child’s day-to-day activities and assigned a point each for the amount of parent-teacher conferences held each year, for activity logs and developmental assessments, for regular newsletters or other updates, for allowing unannounced visits, and for parent volunteer opportunities.

Bright Beginnings Academy: 6
Bright Beginnings West: 6
Childtime Learning Center: 6
Excel Learning Center: 6
Friends Academy of Westampton: 6
The Goddard School: 6
Just Children: 6
The Learning Experience: 6
The Malvern School: 6
Sari Isdaner: 6
Shining Lights Early Childhood Center: 6
Blooming Buds Childcare Center: 5
Congregation M’Kor Shalom: 5
Discovery Corner Childcare & Enrichment Center: 5
Haddonfield Friends School: 5
ABC Academy Preschool: 4
Beechwood School: 4
Colors of the Rainbow Learning Center: 4
First Presbyterian Preschool: 4
Four Seasons Children’s Center: 4
Little Ambassadors Preschool: 4
Moorestown Children’s School: 4
Montessori Child Development Center: 3
Rancocas Friends: 3

Curriculum
The surveys sent out included a checklist of items and the schools earned a point for each: formatted daily schedules, individualized learning practices, rest/nap time, art time, literacy time, language, foreign language, music, dance, math, science, computer and free play. We also looked at the flexibility of programs, where parents can choose from full- or part-time enrollment and whole and half days based on their needs. Scores are from 1-14, with 14 being the highest.

Bright Beginnings Academy: 14
Bright Beginnings West: 14
Childtime Learning Center: 14
Discovery Corner Childcare & Enrichment Center: 14
Excel Learning Center: 14
Friends Academy of Westampton: 14
The Goddard School: 14
Just Children: 14
The Learning Experience: 14
The Malvern School: 14
Montessori Child Development Center: 14
Sari Isdaner: 14
Blooming Buds Childcare Center: 13
Haddonfield Friends School: 13
Beechwood School: 12
Colors of the Rainbow Learning Center: 12
Congregation M’Kor Shalom: 12
Little Ambassadors Preschool: 12
Moorestown Children’s School: 12
First Presbyterian Preschool: 11
Rancocas Friends: 11
Shining Lights Early Childhood Center: 11
ABC Academy Preschool: 10
Four Seasons Children’s Center: 10

Building the Foundation
Many early childhood educators highly recommend the early transition into preschool versus the later transition into kindergarten because of the benefits children will receive from new learning techniques and tools, reinforcement of what they’ve learned at home, and highly certified teachers.

“A child can have a much easier time adjusting to the kindergarten experience if they have [already] been in an environment where they meet and engage with other children and adults,” says Diane Morgan, spokeswoman for The Malvern School.

The early exposure to a structured academic day encourages cognitive development that can otherwise be less refined at the kindergarten level. Although many area preschools differ in the structure of their day, they all have standards to meet for the success of each student’s cognitive development.

“Most preschool programs are planting a multisensory learning approach in efforts to reach all types of learners,” says Haddonfield Friends School Director of Admissions Sandy Trezza.

Along with incorporating technology, the use of group activities are meant to reach all students in the teacher’s effort to discover their specific learning type and what learning environment is best for each child. And the stronger emphasis on preschool today, as opposed to a decade or two ago, has also led to the need for more and more teachers and even aides to hold bachelor’s degrees and above.

So while it’s true that the latest apps may be helping parents build early literacy skills and other knowledge for their children, little ones may not know how to utilize their strengths to work as a team. Once early childhood professionals discover the best learning environment for your child, they are better able to place them in an environment along with the proper amount of extra challenges to build the confidence necessary to continue onto kindergarten and beyond.

Published (and copyrighted) in Suburban Family Magazine, Volume 3, Issue 12 (February, 2013).
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