NORTH LIBERTY– For staff at Frog Hollow preschool and daycare center, providing good care for kids is one big balancing act.
Owner Alan Arzu and center director Vickie Bradenburg are good with that. They both agree that a good preschool program offers a balance between safety and independence, structured activities and free play, organization and spontaneity.
Now, North Liberty’s newest daycare center is balancing out the city’s need for additional childcare programs since opening its doors in August.
Located on the corner of Front and Dubuque streets, Frog Hollow’s building was carefully planned with children in mind, said Brandenburg, who has been working with Arzu at his two Frog Hollow centers in Dubuque since 1999.
“At our other two centers, we had to renovate older buildings, and adjust our programs accordingly,” said Brandenburg. “Here, everything was designed for children from the beginning.”
From the low, kid-friendly windows to the in-class bathrooms to the many child-height sinks, Arzu and Brandenburg planned the building’s features to foster learning and independence for kids.
“Even our 2 year olds can reach the sinks,” noted Brandenburg.
“This building has a lot of things where we spent extra to provide the atmosphere we wanted,” Arzu said. For example, extra-high ceilings that give the center its open, airy feeling were inspired by an architectural magazine Arzu read one day. An extra-large multifunctional room provides a place for kids to move, even on rainy days, and the center has a commercial kitchen, where Frog Hollow kitchen staff cook all meals.
“The kids are able to use actual plates and serve themselves family-style, and everything gets disinfected properly every time. It was a big investment, but it lends itself to a better meal program,” said Arzu.
Even the center’s buses are specially designed for young children.
“Our buses are meant for young kids. They come with an alarm, so drivers are forced to check all the seats before driving.”
Consideration for parents and teachers also played a huge part in how the new center was designed.
Each classroom has children’s coat hooks and cubbies located within, so children don’t have to leave the room to manage their belongings. Windows into each classroom allow parents to see what is going on, but all outside entry doors are unlocked only with a security code, to maintain the safety of the center. The interior doors are also glass-paneled.
“We have no secrets here,” Arzu joked. “Even the kitchen has windows so you can see what is going on. At the end of the day, the environment plays a big part in your day.”
However, Arzu pointed out, it’s just one part.
“The other part is the teachers and staff providing a good service for parents and families,” he added.
The teachers at Frog Hollow have a mixture of backgrounds and educations, and Arzu likes it that way.
“We want an educated staff, but we also want someone who has the right amount of patience, who want to be with kids and are able to handle all the ups and downs that come with them.”
“We look for teachers who are personable, who can communicate with parents and who visibly enjoy being with children while also managing a classroom.
“I truly believe kids know when adults are meant to be with children,” she added, “and when they aren’t. They can sense it.”
Even the Frog Hollow name and logo were given extra thought.
“We spent a lot of time thinking about the logo,” Arzu said. “A frog is a good symbol of play and learning. In some cultures, the frog is a symbol of wisdom. But our frog is blue, because it is also meant to be fun and creative.
“We want the same thing in our name as we want for our school.”
Frog Hollow doesn’t follow one specific curriculum, Arzu said, but all teachers do use Scholastic’s Building Language to Literacy program to lay a foundation for strong learners.
“We focus on preparing kids for kindergarten, but still having fun. We have a creative approach that allows our teachers to use different parts of any curriculum. Our goals are that kids will interact with others, develop good problem-solving skills and pick up a lot of language skills,” Arzu said. “Parents often say, ‘my child learned so much at preschool,’ but learning should be fun, too.”
Arzu’s own daughter, Sophia, attends Frog Hollow in North Liberty, where Arzu grew up. His own mother operated a daycare in North Liberty years ago, and that’s how Arzu became interested in providing childcare, something he has been doing for 12 years now. Opening the third center in North Liberty was special, though.
“It’s like coming home,” he said.
Open from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., Frog Hollow serves children from infants through school age, with daily preschool and a before-and-after school program. The center is still taking new enrollments. Call 626-3175.