Tiny Tots and Little Tykes has been preparing children for kindergarten and beyond for more than 45 years

Pat and Jackie guide their preschool program groups in a fast-paced setting full of song, movement and hands-on learning.

Among its many staff and children, the program also boasts a unique situation — there are multiple pairs of twins who work and play in the building.

Tiny Tots and Little Tykes can teach and care for up to 150 children in its West St. Paul building.

The top-rated child care program continues to expand, offering its preschool program five days a week next year. 

Being ready for kindergarten means more than just knowing letters, numbers, shapes and colors. It also means learning how to share, communicate and treat others.

Tiny Tots and Little Tykes in West St. Paul works to teach its children these skills and more, everyday. Executive Director ManaRae Schaan says this early education is key. 

“Children from birth to age 5 are really developing the connections in their brains,” ManaRae says. “They’re growing and changing so much, and if you can provide good early learning opportunities for them, they will thrive so much more throughout their whole lives.”

Tiny Tots and Little Tykes serves children from ages 6 weeks to 12 years and is licensed to care for 150 children. The staff says many of its children stay with them over the years, moving from the infant and toddler rooms to the preschool and school-age programs.

Since starting in 1973, the childcare center’s staff has worked to make it the best program it can be. In addition to being a 4-star Parent Aware location, the program meets the standards of National Early Childhood Program Accreditation and is one of few breastfeeding-friendly centers.  

Additionally, Tiny Tots and Little Tykes takes advantage of its location in West St. Paul and the many businesses nearby. From walks to the nearby garden center and Lowes for projects, the staff is always looking for fun and engaging ways to care for your child.

“We strive to prepare them with the right frame of mind for the pace and content of kindergarten and beyond,” ManaRae says. 

That learning can really be seen during the fast-paced hours in the center’s preschool program. Jackie Rico and Pat Briese guide their groups through hands-on learning with music, dancing and projects for two and a half hours of the day.

“They really do love to learn at this age,” Jackie says. “We try to tap into that, make it fun and exciting and really give them that love for school.”

The co-teachers, who have worked together for 18 years, have created a program that combines play, music, journaling, STEM concepts and more. On top of teaching children about mixing colors, how ramps work and creating their own dinosaur fossils, they also focus on interpersonal classroom skills.

“Those social skills are just as important as your ABCs or numbers,” Jackie says. “We work on being a good citizen — teaching them how to treat one another, share, take turns and be a good friend.”

At the end of the day, Pat says they are there to help make learning and growing a fun experience for all of the children that come through the door at Tiny Tots and Little Tykes.

“We’ll make it a party around the learning as often as we can,” Pat says. “If we do it in a way that they are engaged and enjoying it, then everyone wins.”

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