Ask any working parent with young children what their number one concern is and most will say finding quality childcare. As someone who attended a daycare center in Chapapaqua as a young child, I can attest how important it was for my parents to find a day care for me that allowed them both to relax on the job and not have to worry about my safety and wellbeing. They wanted to find a place that would also inspire a love of learning in my formative years. Luckily, there is a great option here in town for Chappaqua parents called the Play Care Early Learning Center.
Play Care on Orchard Ridge Road in Chappaqua was established in 1971 as a cooperative and a mission of the First Congregational Church, allowing mothers the opportunity to participate in various community events and activities. The Director of the Play Care Center, Xann Palmer, who’s had more than 20 years of experience in the field of Early Childhood Education, views this origin as a big reason why Play Care has evolved into what it is today.
“The church, in 1971, started a co-op here, church members helping each other, where the moms took on shifts, so to speak”, said Palmer. “One person maybe watched kids on Monday and Tuesday and the other person did Thursday, Friday, in that kind of capacity. And we’ve grown into a licensed program by the New York State Office of Children and Family Services.”
Since that time, Play Care has developed into a fully-equipped day care facility and preschool with a large experienced staff of teachers, aides and of course the Director of Play Care, Xann Palmer. While the center isn’t affiliated with the church in any way, the center has maintained a close relationship with families by continuing the robust volunteering program that birthed the program in the first place.
“We’re not affiliated in any way with the church, there is no faith-based learning.
We serve everyone. We have all kinds of cultures and people from diverse backgrounds in our program and we honor them all. But, we have held on to where the parents play a part in the program in a volunteer component”, said Ms. Palmer. “We like having the parents present and a lot of them can be present in the morning and some can’t, so we find other ways for them to participate as well.”
The center has two levels of classroom spaces, both of which are above grade so the classrooms are actually filled with natural light. Over the past two years they have updated the spaces by putting in new tile flooring and renovating parts of the main level.
Additionally, Play Care provides a high level of security with a centrally wired alarm system and locked security doors at the program’s entrance. Only staff members and enrolled families are assigned access keys eliminating the entry of unauthorized visitors. The center also has a spacious and gated outdoor playground area that children use for outdoor activities and games.
The Play Care Early Learning Center’s goal is to be the program that families turn to in the Northern Westchester community to provide their children a quality early childhood experience. The employees recognize that these early learning years are crucial in laying the foundation for all future learning environments and they take pride in providing the resources to families in a nurturing and respectful manner, especially Director Xann Palmer.
“Our goals are just to help children have that first school experience be a positive one,” said Palmer. We want them to want to come to school. We want them to enjoy learning. And we want to offer them as many good experiences as they can while they’re with us,” she continued. “Most of all, we want to ensure that every child leaves the program ready for kindergarten and all other future endeavors.”