INFANT /TODDLER COTTAGES

Our Infant/Toddler program is comprised of two classrooms. The Cricket Cottage welcomes babies six weeks through one year of age and has eight children and two Teachers. The Ladybug Cottage welcomes children one and two years of age and has twelve children and two Teachers.

Our Infant/Toddler Cottages are influenced by Resources for Infant Educarers (RIE). It is a “relationship-based” philosophy, based on mutual trust and respect for each child. Based on the individual child’s developmental stage, our teachers acknowledge and support their need for both dependence and independence. Warm, loving, positive relationships with caregivers help infants and toddlers develop a sense of trust in the world and a feeling of competence. These meaningful interactions are essential for the healthy development of the child’s self-esteem.

We encourage each child’s authenticity and allow for uninterrupted child- directed play. Children are provided a safe, comfortable, nurturing, and stimulating environment from which to grow. Infants and toddlers learn by experiencing the environment through their senses, by physically moving around and through their social interactions. We provide them the freedom to explore within their safe environment and interact with children of their own age. The classrooms are filled with age appropriate toys, materials and equipment to foster each child’s individual growth and development.

We love Mother Nature! Our infants and toddlers are given opportunities daily to enjoy the natural world outdoors. When out of the classroom, babies are strapped safely in strollers for rides in the fresh air and enjoy playing in our covered, fenced in play area, Jennie’s House. Our toddlers also enjoy playing in Jennie’s House as well as safely exploring the great outdoors on their covered, screened in lanai, on the toddler playground and when tending to their garden box in the school garden. Rest assured, your child will not be exposed to any harmful pesticides when playing outdoors. The Cottages uses only integrated pest control which manages pests through non-toxic, all natural methods.

Your baby’s health and well-being are of the utmost importance to us. At this stage in life, children are more vulnerable to the harmful effects of environmental toxins then at any other time. This is why we have thoughtfully selected the toys, furnishings, supplies, and best practices for our infant care environment.

  • Our toys are non-toxic and free of all but the safest plastics.
  • Soft toys and linens provided are made from organic fibers. (Cricket Cottage only)
  • Crib mattresses are covered with organic quilted covers. Crib mattresses are made with chemicals that have been linked to childhood health problems. Chemicals such as fire retardants and plasticizers can be found in the foam and vinyl covers. Organic mattress covers provide a barrier to avoid the unnecessary exposure to these chemicals. (Cricket Cottage only)
  • We use only non-toxic cleaning and laundry supplies for a healthier indoor environment.
  • Stainless steel serving bowls and BPA free spoons are used during mealtimes to reduce waste and provide a toxin-free dining experience.
  • We require everyone entering the Infant Cottage to remove their shoes in consideration of the children. Many studies show that shoes can track in dirt, germs, and pesticides. A shoe-free policy helps keep the floors safe for children to play on.

PRESCHOOL COTTAGES

Our preschool curriculum is influenced by the Reggio Emilia Approach. The Reggio Philosophy is based on the principles of respect, responsibility, and community. Children learn through exploration and discovery in a supportive and enriching environment. Teachers guide the topics of investigation or projects based on the interests of the children in each group.

Throughout each cottage you will find various means of representations, documenting the children’s learning in action. The classrooms are adorned with the children’s artwork, dictations, graphs, cooperative learning projects, pictures, and documentation panels.

THE TWO-YEAR-OLD COTTAGES

The Two-Year-Old preschool cottages consist of two classrooms. The Caterpillar Cottage welcomes our younger twos/threes students and has twelve children and two Teachers. The Butterfly Cottage welcomes our older twos/threes students and has nine children and one Teacher.

We believe two year old children learn best by doing, so we deliver first-hand experiences as a foundation for increasing their knowledge about our physical world. Using our multi-sensory approach, we encourage them to discover their world through their five senses. Children are provided with many learning opportunities which include tactile, sensory, and creative expression experiences in which the children are sure to get messy. In our program, the emphasis is placed on your child’s individuality and creativity, not the final product.

Within our environments, teachers provide an assortment of rotating materials and props for the children to discover. Authentic, realistic toys and materials enable children to engage in increasingly complex types of play. To encourage the children’s imagination and to support their need to imitate, they will be provided with materials for puppetry, dressing up, cooking, and caring for baby dolls. Children will develop cognitive and mathematical skills as they build with a variety of blocks, stacking toys, puzzles, shape and color sorters.

Teachers will work with children on skills necessary in life such as toileting, dressing and undressing ourselves, problem solving, and building conflict resolution skills. Routine, repetition and rituals are established during the day for the children to follow, providing children with a comfortable, predictable environment in which to thrive. Children in our two year old programs relish the opportunity to explore the natural world outdoors each day. They have access to both our toddler playground as well as the large playground. Both playgrounds are set up with equipment and materials to further enhance the various areas of development. Additionally, to assist in creating the connection with Mother Nature, Teachers provide children with learning opportunities such as making squirrel feeders, providing pieces of colorful yarn for birds to use in creating their nests, observing lizards, and participating in gardening activities in our school garden.

THREE YEAR OLD COTTAGE

The Three-Year-Old classroom consists of eighteen children and two Teachers.

At The Cottages, we understand that every child’s development is unique and complex. Three year old children intrinsically know what they need and are able to express what they want. We encourage the children to make many choices on their own with regard to what activities they want to engage in. We strive to promote and enhance each child’s individual needs and interest. Our program allows for a balance of interactions with peers through both child-directed activities and teacher-led instruction.

During our morning indoor exploration time, the children are free to choose where they would like to play. Our safe, consistent, and nurturing environment is designed to stimulate the child’s innately inquisitive nature. Imaginations soar in the Dramatic Play, Blocks and Puppet areas where children act out real life roles. In the Language, Math, Science, Music and Art areas children are developing life long habits of observation, inquiry, listening, and self-expression. Teachers allow for uninterrupted child-directed play and rotate through out the interest centers supporting children as needed. Our curriculum is integrated through out the classroom and materials and props are changed to reflect the cottage’s current pursuits. While one Teacher stays in the main classroom during our morning indoor exploration time, the other Teacher works with small groups of children as well as individually in the art studio. This enables the Teachers to determine the developmental needs and abilities of the individual child and allows them to document each child’s growth and plan accordingly.

Children are introduced new concepts, learning experiences and hold group discussions while gathered during circle time. During this time, children will participate in daily rituals such as calendar, weather, reciting the pledge of allegiance, music and movement activities, reading stories, puppet shows, and so much more. This time of gathering helps to support our sense of community and promotes positive social interactions among the children.

Our large playground allows children to further enhance the various areas of development. The playground is equipped with a bike path and tricycles to ride on, 2 climbing structures, a swing set as well as tire swings, a playhouse for pretend play, tree stumps to walk on, a sand box, and a lego table. Additionally, children have access to playground prop boxes which include balls, jump ropes, stepping stones, and a variety of gross motor materials that promote cooperation between 2 or more children. Under the canopies on the playground, outdoor classroom materials and props are changed throughout the year. In these areas children have access to materials that support their interests in Music, Art, Blocks, Math, Science, Books, and Dramatic Play. Children in our program also enjoy playing outdoors while on their screened in lanai as well as participating in gardening activities in our school garden.

VPK COTTAGE

The VPK Cottage consists of nineteen children and two Teachers.

The Cottages at Michaels Learning Center is registered with the FloridaDepartment of Education (DOE) to provide Voluntary Prekindergarten (VPK). We utilize the Florida Early Learning and Developmental Standards for Four-Year-Olds (2011) set forth by the State Board of Education. Thesestandards create a common framework and language to ensure a high quality Pre-K experience for all four year old children. They help Teachers understand the sequence of development across multiple domains and the important factors that influence development. Furthermore, they are designed to guide Prekindergarten Administrators and Teachers in designing and implementing appropriate early learning environments. The standards provide realistic expectations for four year old children as they reflect the ways in which four year olds think, recreate, reason, and create when involved in the learning process and when provided a high quality learning environment. The standards were created based on the knowledge that children are all unique and have an individual pattern and timing for growth. It is understood that every child holds different experiences, abilities, and interests. The Standards for Four-Year-Olds (2011) are based on what we know about children, including what they should know and be able to do along a continuum of development. The Standards for Four-Year-Olds are grouped around the following five domains of development:
I. Physical Development
II. Approaches to Learning
III. Social and Emotional Development
IV. Language, Communication, and Emergent Literacy
V. Cognitive Development and General Knowledge

At The Cottages, our goal is to prepare every child for success with their educational future, especially in our VPK program. The Teachers help develop each child’s building blocks for academic achievement by providing them with the developmental tools needed for academic knowledge. The Cottages provides developmentally appropriate environments for our children to thrive. Our program allows for a balance of interactions with peers through both child-directed activities and teacher-led instruction. By incorporating a Teacher-directed weekly Math and Writing Club in small groups, Teachers are better able to help each child advance at their own rate as well as document each child’s growth and plan accordingly. Children in our VPK program learn the sound and written form of each capital and lower case letter of the alphabet as well as discover the excitement of reading sight and family words.

Children also have the daily opportunity to explore their classroom environment through various choices of learning centers and materials to further engage and encourage curiosity and knowledge. Our curriculum is integrated through out the classroom and materials and props are changed to reflect the cottage’s current pursuits. Through exploration, each child’s social and cognitive development will be enhanced through communication with peers as well as through problem solving and manipulation of the many activities provided.

Daily group times are offered for the children to come together as a class and participate in rituals such as the calendar, weather, reciting the pledge of allegiance, stories, music and movement, and literature. Children are introduced new concepts, learning experiences and hold group discussions while gathered during circle time. The children will learn to function as a group and support each other in reference to learning and encouraging the current Topic.

Our large playground allows children to further enhance the various areas of development. The playground is equipped with a bike path and tricycles to ride on, 2 climbing structures, a swing set as well as tire swings, a playhouse for pretend play, tree stumps to walk on, a sand box, and a lego table. Additionally, children have access to playground prop boxes which include balls, jump ropes, stepping stones, and a variety of gross motor materials that promote cooperation between 2 or more children. Under the canopies on the playground, outdoor classroom materials and props are changed throughout the year. In these areas children have access to materials that support their interests in Music, Art, Blocks, Math, Science, Books, and Dramatic Play. Children in our program also enjoy playing outdoors while on their screened in lanai as well as participating in gardening activities in our school garden.