Anyone who’s searched for childcare for their infant or young child knows of the nightmares out there. Daycare centers that are run like baby prisons. In-home care with the TV on all day. The exorbitant prices of nannies or au pairs. Good childcare is hard to find, and yet, many parents must use outside childcare to work at jobs that bring much-needed income. Finding a good daycare with a reasonable rate is one of the Holy Grails of parenting.
Tucson is blessed with several high-quality daycares, and the Tucson Jewish Community Center’s Early Childhood Education program is one of them.
The Jewish Community Center is located at River and Dodge, on the southeast corner. It features pools, a full gym, playgrounds, tennis courts, a kosher cafe, computer lab, large meeting and event facilities, a plethora of community activities and events, and much more. One of their larger programs is the Early Childhood Education program, located behind locked doors on the first and second floors of the north part of the building. Caring for children from six weeks old to pre-kindergarten, the ECE is nationally accredited and DES approved. The daycare is locked from the exterior, and parents are provided with keychain swipe tags that allow them to enter the daycare at will, while restricting strangers from walking about the daycare.
The ECE strikes a good balance between free play, structured play, and learning activities. There are also wonderful enrichment activities at no additional cost, such as cooking class, singalong, and other special activities. Additional enrichment classes (for an additional fee) include ballet, baby dance, t-ball, art class, computers, clay, theater, yoga, “Magic Muck,” and a plethora of other fun and age-appropriate classes.
In the summer, the ECE takes the children to the outdoor wading pool and Splash Park, which are both appropriate for children ages 2 to 5. The children also visit the gym, and the playgrounds are well-stocked with equipment and sand toys. The classrooms have lots of age-appropriate toys and manipulatives, as well as musical instruments and art supplies. There’s not a television to be found. Children are taught age-appropriate Judaics, and every Friday they participate in the Shabbat Singalong. Reading is an everyday event.
The prices? It depends on what kind of hours you’re looking for, and the age of your child. The contracts are usually annual, with the contract year beginning in September (for returning children). The daycare is open from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. and is closed for major Jewish holidays and a few teacher planning days throughout the year. There are many plans to choose from, however, whether you require part-time or full-time care. Also, those experiencing financial limitations may be eligible for ECE scholarships (usually for part of the tuition rate), and there are also scholarships available for the JCC membership fee. Membership at the JCC is required in order to attend the ECE, and the membership gives full access to all of the benefits and services that the JCC offers– you can show up a little early and take advantage of the gym before picking up your child, or take the kids to the pool after work. For a post- work/daycare detox, check out the french fries at the Cafe at the J– they’re proved to be therapeutic for the whole family.
For more information, call or stop by the Jewish Community Center Early Childhood Education Program. They’ll be happy to show you around and answer your questions. My child has attended for three years, and we’re still very happy with the quality of care and the friendliness of staff.