Christian day care use growing

It's not just parents with especially strong or particular religious convictions who send their kids to child-care centers that incorporate religious instruction.

A growing number of families of varying faiths - or no religious faith at all - are enrolling their youngest members, according to center directors.

Directors say parents like the centers' denominational inclusiveness or strong teaching programs or the values teachers try to impart.

Directors say religion-based care offers more than just child supervision, in contrast to some secular day care.

And they say religion provides important life lessons no matter what a child's background.

"Religious teaching gives children skills for life," says Joyce McCormack, director of Trinity Lutheran Child Care Center in Gardnerville. "It stays with you and can help you through the hard times."

Marnie Schreiner, director of Adventure Land Christian Pre-School and Center in Carson City, stresses that she doesn't run a day care: "I don't just hire two 16-year-olds to watch kids. We provide an early childhood program totally designed for learning."

At Capital Christian Center, also in Carson City, director Linda McIntosh believes "kindness, patience and empathy for others" are among the most important values children can learn in her program.

Capital Christian, Adventure Land and Trinity Lutheran are all non-denominational and accept children from any faith or from non-religious families. Religious instruction at each is Christian.

Adventure Land combines music time and morning prayer, and Schreiner says children are taught "Jesus is accessible by prayer."

Religion is also used as the context in which to celebrate people's differences.

"We learn that Jesus says we are all special, that all people have worth, even if they don't look like us," Schreiner explains. "We also observe different religious holidays, including Hanukkah."

At Capital Christian, children listen to a weekly Bible story and memorize Bible verses because it's "important they know who God is, who Jesus is," McIntosh emphasizes.

Capital Christian snack times begin with prayers with which children assist.

McCormack says "some children will never get to know Jesus except here," so there's "Jesus time" every day at Trinity Lutheran. Kids learn Bible verses, sing songs, watch puppets act out Bible stories and, once a week, go to church.

McCormack and her fellow directors believe religious teaching creates a joyful atmosphere that enhances the quality of non-religious instruction.

Children at all three centers are taught by Christians. They learn through play and participatory activities such as songs, games, crafts and free-form creative time. Older kids take a kindergarten prep sequence, learning about shapes, colors, numbers, listening and following directions.

Each center has indoor and outdoor equipment, toys and areas for developing motor skills. Children can ride bikes, kick balls, run, climb and laugh.

And let's not forget nap and snack time, things a lot of grown-up kids probably wish they had more time to enjoy.

Adventure Land provides a morning and afternoon snack. Kids at Capital Christian bring their morning snack, and the center serves one in the afternoon. Trinity Lutheran's day includes two snacks and an optional milk at lunch.

All three centers had a few openings. As McIntosh noted, "it's hard to find good, affordable child care, people are always calling saying everything is full."

Add to those limitations the problem of locating someone to whom a parent feels comfortable entrusting a child.

Many families are finding that comfort in religion-based child care because, as McCormack explains, they know they'll find "a loving, nurturing, caring atmosphere for their children."


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