By Cathy Wharton
For Hometown News
For working moms and dads, finding a top-notch daycare facility for their preschool children is not always an easy task.
Though there may be many daycare centers within a given area, not all are equal, either in quality or affordability. In Ormond Beach, however, there's a "new kid" on the block -- the Little Engine Academy on South Nova Road.
Formerly known as "Bright Beginnings," the daycare center is now under the direction of Bob and Joy Vaeth. After moving from Park City, Utah, to Ormond Beach, the couple assumed ownership of the facility, and this past June, re-opened the center with a new name.
One of the most immediate attractions at the Little Engine Academy is a large Lionel train display with bells, whistles and crossroads -- plus dozens of mini stop-off points, such as stores and eating-places. The winding track includes a tall mountain tunnel for the train to travel through and rural fields dotted with tractors; plus depots and towers and other nifty things guaranteed to catch a child's attention. "My husband likes trains -- that's how it all got started," Mrs. Vaeth quipped.
As a private childcare facility, the Little Engine Academy offers daycare for both infants and kindergartners. "It's for preschoolers only -- getting kids ready for first grade, giving them a big head start," Mr. Vaeth said.
The spacious surroundings and large number of rooms allow for a variety of activities, each appropriately geared towards different age groups.
A quick tour of the center begins with a sizable dining room for the older children, ages 3 to 5, and can accommodate up to 90 kids at a time. Experienced and certified aides are always on hand to tend to the little ones' needs.
Down the hallway from the dining room is the "infant room" for babies six weeks to one year. Cribs and rockers are aptly placed throughout the room, and each infant is carefully tended by specially trained staff.
Other indoor areas include playrooms for toddlers ages 1 to 2 and 2 to 3. Next is the "walking/talking" group -- the 3 year-olds; plus playrooms for the 4 and 5 year-olds. In all instances, activities, games and toys are age-appropriate. Also in place is a staff-to-child ratio of 1:4, 1:6, 1:11 and 1:16, depending on the age group. The older the child is, the greater the ratio.
There also is a "computer room" or "learning lab" where the older children can learn language skills and access a variety of educational materials. The computers are not internet-accessible, but each of the programs provide important tools for learning. The lab, of course, is staffed and monitored by a teacher or teacher's aide.
Throughout the facility itself, in every room and in every hallway, is an impressive array of artwork -- colorful hand-painted murals that depict animals, trees and pastoral scenes; plus people and places indigenous to other countries, including Japan, England, France and Mexico.
When it comes to mealtime, the Little Engine Academy places great importance on the kind of food it provides. All meals are prepared by a caring kitchen staff that emphasizes a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, which in turn, helps youngsters learn about good nutrition.
In Florida, daycare facilities are regulated by the Department of Children and Families. Each facility must follow certain criteria and meet the developmental guidelines for both activities and curriculum as set forth by DCF. Facilities must also be licensed by the state. Little Engine Academy has met every requirement. In addition, the owners are "on sight all day every day."
As stated by Mr. Vaeth, the Little Engine Academy is a school where child enrichment is offered "more through curriculum-based education and less through babysitting. We're honored that the parents have entrusted their children to our care."
The Little Engine Academy is at 499 S. Nova Road, Ormond Beach.
Hours are 6:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday.
Call (386) 310-4980 or visit thelittleengineacademy.com.