ST. CLAIRSVILLE - While the first day of kindergarten is always a big day for any student, an intimidating or even scary first day of kindergarten for youngsters is becoming more of a thing of the past. That’s because an increasing percentage of young children are getting experience and becoming prepared for school at an even earlier age. Today, more and more children are attending pre-schools and are exposed to group learning experiences through day cares before stepping foot in a kindergarten classroom. With the demands schools put on students today, the extra preparation is certainly proving to be beneficial. Child care isn’t something geared only toward single working parents who need it. In the wake of a tough economy, more families are living in households with two working parents. Many parents are going back to school with hopes of getting a new or better job in the future. Some parents are laid off and are going back to school. More grandparents - who are often relied upon for helping with the children while mom and dad are at work - are themselves working. Regardless of the circumstances, families today are busy on all fronts, and when parents are away at work or at school, youngsters need somewhere to go and something to do that will occupy and benefit them, too. Creative Learning Day Care and Preschool in St. Clairsville is one of many facilities in the Ohio Valley that offer child care services. Opened in 1999, the business has expanded four times over the course of less than 13 years. What began as a operation of in-home child care is now housed in a 7,000-square foot facility with 318 children and a staff of 23. The growth is a reflection not only of the business’s success, but also of the relentless demand for child care services. “In the past month and a half, I’ve done 13 or 14 walk-throughs, showing new families our facility,” said Shayna Parsons, owner of Creative Learning Day Care and Preschool. “Almost every other night of the week, we’re doing walk throughs. I’ve never seen such a demand for services as we’re seeing now.” Parsons said with parent’s schedules being all over the map because of changing or sporadic work and school schedules, one thing that has been in high demand in recent years has been child care that can accommodate flexible schedules. While some providers offer care in monthly blocks, Creative Learning has broken its services down to allow parents to adjust their times for child care on a weekly basis to best accommodate fluctuating family schedules. Families in need of financial assistance for day care can get help through their county Department of Job and Family Services or through the Head Start program. Child care services today not only cater to the needs of parents, but also focus on the ever-changing needs of the children themselves. Pre-schooling has nearly become a standard for children between the ages of 3 and 4. That’s because preschools not only offer early childhood education for pre-kindergarten children, they also offer the young students an opportunity to become accustomed to the social structure of the school experience. “When kids first come to us for pre-school, the first two months can be spent just ‘socializing’ them,” said Parsons. “Most kids that age have never really been in a situation where they have to know how to act when they’re among their peers - not their brothers or sisters, their family or a few friends - but a group of their peers. It’s important. Ayres may be reached online at firstname.lastname@example.org
T-L Photo/ERIC AYRES
Preschool students Leonard Castellanos, Annalee Williams and Candace Huh, from left, color maps of the United States in Miss Linda Kafana’s 4- and 5-year-old preschool class at Creative Learning Day Care and Preschool in St. Clairsville. More and more children today are honing their skills academically and beyond before ever stepping foot in kindergarten.