Even those of you in your prime—fulfilling job, cute kids, being carded at the grocery store—discover that finding the perfect child care can be elusive. When you’re at work, all you can think about is what the babysitter’s doing at home. Maternal guilt may also be keeping your spandex from spin class. Kim and Eboni, Cook, a mother/daughter team, have opened a child-focused day care center in Ulster County to replace standard-issue child care with interactive, developmentally appropriate programming based on your child’s age and ability. From infants through pre-K, while you’re sweating it out at work or the gym, well-trained and certified staff members with backgrounds in early childhood education will engage your tots in activities based on an actual curriculum: stories, art, science, music, building and play. Projects vary daily—parents can check the schedule ahead of time—and always result in a cool take-home project.
In a large historic (and child-code renovated) home, Joyful Moments offers spacious classrooms for fine arts and fun; and acres of grounds for gardening, outdoor play and hiking on their own nature trails, possibly raising chickens and goats along with herbs. Whether it’s full-time, part-time or summers, the duo starts with a family consultation. Heaven if you want home cooked healthy meals, a head start on engaging preschoolers with abcs and making their own play doh, a safe environment, and a staff with the skill set to work out behavioral, social and growing-pain problems. So you can feel good about the time they’ve spent.
How did you get into the day care business?
Eboni: I’ve been babysitting for 14 years, and spent many years working at day care centers as I put myself through school. I’m getting my masters now in mental health counseling for children.
How did you get your business off the ground?
A $30,000 loan from Community Capital made it possible for us to rent the building, and renovate, buy equipment, and keep going during the months it took to get all the necessary licenses and permits. Community Capital staff is so supportive with marketing and recommendations.
How did your business evolve?
There was a big needs assessment done in Ulster and it found a severe lack of quality daycare for residents. I wanted to open my own day care center, because working in day care I was disgusted by the centers. I would never put my child in daycare. I wanted to provide a daycare that parents could feel comfortable in, a different environment. We never had enough supplies to do the lesson plans, and I felt they weren’t being truthful to parents because there weren’t the means to do the activities. I will provide staff with the materials they need.
I have an open door policy with children and their parents. I give parents the opportunity to volunteer—to play outside on a field day, to help on an art project—to make it feel like a family environment.
In the day care centers I worked in everything was microwaved. The food was very unhealthy. I worked with a Kingston nutritionist to plan a healthy menu, including yogurt, cottage cheese, raw vegetables, so children learn to eat healthy.
The day care centers I worked in had no land. Children need room to run around. We’re on 2 acres. There is an ample amount of space for kids to run and play. We are also zoned for agriculture, so we can have a children’s garden, and eventually raise goats and chickens. The children can grow their own vegetables and come into the kitchen and make a meal.
I didn’t like the lack of support from management with behavioral issues with the children. Kids have behavioral and emotional issues. We teach them coping skills. I saw too many children labeled as being a problem child, given an IEP and kicked out of day care. With my degree, it will enable parents to bring them here and enroll them in my program, a therapeutic type of preschool for those that need it.
In hindsight you wish you knew?
How long it would take for the community to find us. The owner of Appleland, Stephanie, became a mentor. She owned 3 day care centers in the area and put starting up in perspective. She put it in realistic terms for us. It doesn’t happen overnight. She’s retired, and traveling in Cambodia, but offers us tips and advice. We’ve put up road signs, handed out fliers, and attended Chamber of Commerce mixers.
Hiring two people, full and part time, as staff, and 8 more when we’re full (32 children).
You’ll know you’ve made it when?
When parents give us good feedback and positive reviews. Just to make families happy and comfortable so they can go to work all day and not worry will make me feel that I’m doing what I said I would do.