Last year marked the 45th anniversary of a child care center in Slayton opened by the community, for the community. Wonder World Preschool Inc. started in 1972 when Pastor Bob Moritz and his wife, Carol, read a notice in their local newspaper asking anyone in the Slayton area interested in starting a day care center to attend a meeting. They saw the need for child care, so they went. Along with the help and ideas of other community members, they opened the doors to Wonder World Preschool in September that same year. Carol helped choose the name, picturing a “wonder world” for kids.
“The mission of Wonder World is to provide exceptional love and care for the children,” said Jana Sturges, the center’s director. “We promote the development of the total child — physically, mentally, emotionally and socially. With play areas, creative arts and science, the children learn how to express their thoughts and ideas. We strive to provide a positive, loving, and exciting learning environment that is safe, healthy, and conducive to learning.”
Wonder World operates as a nonprofit, with funding from tuition and donations. It’s licensed to care for up to 76 children at a time. Originally, it served only preschoolers, but today staff care for infants starting at 6 weeks of age through 12-year-olds. Currently, 36 families have children enrolled at Wonder World. The community is fortunate to have this resource: Throughout southwest Minnesota, 15,120 children have both parents in the workforce, but there are only 10,406 child care slots available, according to data from the Minnesota Department of Human Services. That leaves 4,714 kids left without care or scrambling to find other sources of care.
At Wonder World, there is a preschool program every morning from 9 to 11 with lesson plans from Mother Goose Time, a research-based early learning curriculum that provides hands-on experiences where children learn by doing. Wonder World holds a one-star Parent Aware rating in the statewide rating system, and is working to acquire a two-star rating, showing staff use best practices to prepare children for their first Kindergarten experience.
“The best part about working with kids is seeing the smiles on their face when they accomplish something they’ve been working hard on and the relationship that a caregiver and child develop is so rewarding,” said Jana, who has been working at Wonder World since 1994 in a variety of positions.
Although rewarding, the business of child care can be challenging, and providers often leave the field partly because they feel undervalued. Jana encourages parents and others to remind child care staff they are appreciated: “A simple, spoken ‘thanks for what you do; my child looks forward to seeing you every day,’ can go a long way. It can make a provider feel that they are making a difference. Even a quick email recognizing the effort the staff is putting forward makes their day. After all, their positive influence has the potential to change a child’s life!”
Wonder World staff were among nearly 400 providers we celebrated on National Child Care Provider Appreciation Day as part of Southwest Initiative Foundation’s work in support of rural child care solutions. Find out more.