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Toddlers at CAI’s Early Childhood Center

February 2017

Toddlers are filled with wonder, curiosity and passion and NOW Agudath Israel Early Childhood Center is filled with toddlers!

This year we expanded our very successful Extended Day program when we launched a class for children ages 18 -24 months. Parents no longer have to choose between a high quality Jewish education and full time care for their children – this class offers both.

We began by creating an environment different than our other rooms. The room is furnished with natural wood furniture, which creates a sense of home and a sense of calm. The natural materials also support our school-wide philosophy of deepening our connection to nature.

The furniture is specially designed to support young toddlers as they begin to explore and feel successful negotiating the room. A toddler-sized climbing gym provides a safe active play environment with carpeted platforms. The children enjoy climbing up, crawling through tunnels and sliding down with their friends.

The environment is filled with so much more than the furniture. The teachers work together to create a “yes” environment in the room as they are thoughtful and intentional about creating opportunities where children are able to feel successful through opportunities to explore without any limitations of adult expectations. They know that children will learn to use materials and equipment once they reach the developmental stage, which allows them to navigate these things.

To provide a “yes” environment, the teachers give guidance and partner with children in their learning. They have patience for children and meet their needs in a developmentally appropriate way.

Stefanie Shapiro, the lead teacher in the room, works together with a strong team of teachers to make sure each family feels welcome and secure in the setting. Stefanie says, “When I heard about the new toddler class, I intuitively felt a calling that this was something I needed to be a part of.” It has been remarkable to watch the children’s development in the course of a few short months. Stefanie marvels at being able to “watch a child come to school with virtually no language to speaking in 7-8 word conversational sentences.”

The teachers have had the privilege to work with Mary Lou Allen who has served as our consultant since the inception of the program. Mary Lou, a nationally recognized expert in the field of infant and toddler education, helped us create a vision for the class and helped us understand the profound significance of the synagogue supporting this venture. She has come in to observe and work with the teachers in creating the best possible setting for their young students. Mary Lou has provided workshops on proper sanitizing of the changing table, providing the best play materials, easing transitions and so much more. It’s been an honor to work with her.

Stefanie shares that “bearing witness to how the simple activities throughout the day result in extraordinary development is humbling.” “Children truly are amazing learners. When we can trust in this, phenomenal things happen – they already have!”

We are thrilled to be part of this wonderful journey, which opens up so many new possibilities for our families. The ECC is grateful to the synagogue for seeing the importance of providing care and education for the very youngest members of our community.

As we look forward to building on the successes of the first year of the toddler class, we welcome everyone to spread the word about the great work we are doing.

Come visit the class and let your friends and neighbors know that “phenomenal things are happening in the toddler room at Agudath Israel!”

May 29,2020 /  6 Sivan 5780