A Tour of Six Edina Preschools

With the excitement of fall well past and winter underway, hardly anyone is thinking of starting a new school year—except the parents of young kids who will begin preschool in the fall. While preschool-age children may be eager to start school on their own, parents may find sending them off for the first time can be emotional, so they want to make sure their children are in good hands. Edina has a long list of award-winning preschools and day-care facilities. Most offer open houses, classroom tours or home visits. These opportunities help give potential students a taste of what school is like, and can give parents a sense of their child’s readiness. Whether it’s sports, cooking or learning a new language, preschools each have something different to offer. Here’s a sample of what’s available.

Edina Morningside Nursery School

“Our primary goal is learning through play,” says Melissa Clarke, director of the oldest operating preschool in the state. Edina Morningside offers half-day, morning or afternoon nursery school where kids learn without even realizing it. With an art area, sensory tables, dramatic play area, climber and a gym full of balls and games, kids gain many skills while having fun.

The morning and afternoon sessions each have a one-to-eight teacher-to-child ratio, which Clarke takes seriously as a part of their family-oriented teaching style. “We are a play-based program and a tight-knit family community,” Clarke says. Parents can be involved as much as they please through field trips, cooking and art projects, and other activities like the annual Christmas program, Thanksgiving feast and end-of-the-year party.

Edina Morningside is also one of the only preschools to offer home visits, where teachers meet with families and their children to see them in their most comfortable environment and familiarize them with the opportunity of going to school. This is just another way the school demonstrates its family-friendly nature.

Creekside Children’s Place

Boasting a preschool program that is “very over-staffed” with highly qualified instructors, co-director and co-owner Danielle Mathews details the loving environment at Creekside Children’s Place. “We keep it very preschool,” she says. “We do a lot of teaching through art and through songs.” With everything from enrichment programs to a giant gym, Creekside has it all.

Instruction at Creekside lasts longer than a typical preschool day, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., with optional extended-care programs that parents can utilize at their convenience. A morning helpers’ program also offers kids a chance to come in early to help set up before school.

In addition, Creekside kids can get involved in a pre-K enrichment program, where groups of up to four students can work with a teacher on specific skills through games and activities. This is Creekside’s specialty: disguising learning as play. “We do a ton of play, but we are able to squeeze all that academic stuff in with kids that are learning the same way they are,” Mathews says.

Tours are offered during open registration, when parents can explore the school and see what a typical day looks like.

“The teachers want to be here,” Mathews says. “They love being here and they truly love the children. And I’m always amazed at how much academically they’re teaching them as well.”

The Berry Patch

True to its name, the Berry Patch school attracts children with its cheery and fun-filled learning environment that includes music and language classes as well as community outreach programming. Director Shannon Matson lists the school’s Children Serving Others initiative and its afternoon French immersion program as some of the reasons kids love coming to learn; the school’s on-staff parent educator is one of the reasons parents love sending their kids to Berry Patch.

Children Serving Others is a partnership between the Berry Patch and a preschool in Minneapolis. Berry Patch kids donate new or gently used clothes and school supplies to its partner school, giving young students a chance to interact with the larger community around them.

Berry Patch provides lessons in Spanish once a month, but another feature that makes this school unique is its new French immersion program offered weekly during afternoon classes. Kids are also offered a variety of other afternoon programming, including theater and science classes and sports camps.

“Early childhood is such an important thing,” says Matson, who knows kindergarten readiness is important to parents. That’s why Berry Patch teachers allow children to work and figure out lessons on their own as much as possible. “The teacher does the basics at the beginning, but as time progresses, the children are actively developing and creating.”

New Horizon Academy

This long-established company has been in the Twin Cities area since the 1970s, and parents who went to preschool here often send their own children to New Horizon Academy in Edina, says director Danielle Richards. The long-standing tradition of high quality has not faded. “We have very high standards in terms of who we hire, the curriculum we use and the materials we provide the kids,” Richards says.

This preschool accepts scholarships through the state, and offers enrichment programs kids participate in throughout the week including music, Spanish and yoga. The curriculum also centers on a different theme each month and includes regular field trips and other community learning experiences.

Richards is well aware of what it takes to prepare children for kindergarten, and is confident in New Horizon’s staff to get them there. In addition to developing social skills, self-help skills and confidence, teachers also focus on academic achievement.

“We hire high-quality staff who really are passionate about early childhood and who provide skills and learning opportunities for the children to prepare for kindergarten,” Richards says. “They really understand what’s developmentally appropriate as a whole for a child.”

New Horizon Academy offers tours, as well as a full free day of preschool, to prospective families.

Especially For Children

Thirty-nine years ago, Priscilla Williams had an idea for a preschool that was different from the rest. Today, she is president of Especially for Children, a standout in Edina, along with eight other centers around the metro area. Especially for Children offers half or full-day registration and flexible days, allowing for more freedom for parents and the right fit for kids.

“Children get such a wide variety of what they need in their early years with us,” Williams says. “They constantly have more challenges with learning, and are so eager to learn.”

Especially for Children prepares kids in a wide variety of subject matters including math, science, social studies, literacy and the arts. There is also a periodical Spanish class, to expand the kids’ speaking and learning abilities and prepare them fully for starting kindergarten.

“I think that we challenge [the kids] to think for themselves, to solve their own problems, to explore a wide variety of materials, and just gain confidence in themselves as people,” Williams says. “When a child goes into kindergarten with an excitement about learning, then they take on the new challenges with confidence and excitement.”

Primrose School

If there’s a term that describes Primrose School, it’s over-prepared. Offering everything from day care to kindergarten, children will learn and play their own way, learning from teachers who apply the latest research in child care to help kids initiate their own education. Director of education and training Sarah Diaz describes their balanced learning philosophy, which includes portions of lessons that are teacher-directed and some that are child-initiated, all in small groups.

The small student-to-teacher ratio means students get lots of special attention. “It just gives the teachers the ability to learn the individual needs of each child, and change their instruction based on their needs,” Diaz says.

What makes Primrose stand apart is its character development program, which gets interwoven into a lot of instruction. Instilling values through play is important to Diaz and the other teachers. “It’s such an important part of early childhood,” she says. “People focus so much on academics, but you have to focus on the whole child.”

Another way Primrose focuses on well-rounded education is consistent research in the areas of child development. Professionals at the corporate location deliver research and techniques for teachers to apply in the classroom. “This way, our teachers are just focusing on the children,” Diaz says.

Primrose offers tours, as well as community outreach events where prospective families are welcome to participate.