Every workday from early morning to late afternoon a “little jewel” gathers in the basement of the Bloomster Building of the Ruth M. Smith Center. The “little jewel?” The Center’s Daycare program of local children spending their day together under the careful direction and nurturing of MaryAnne Walters, the program’s director, and her trained staff.
“Each child is special,” explained MaryAnne. “We try to do a lot of things that the children would do if they were still at home such as instill manners, show kindness, and teach basic chores like putting away their dishes after lunch. And, of course, we cuddle and love them when they are feeling down or a little scared.”
While there is no such thing as a typical day at the Daycare, the children are always greeted at arrival and allowed to play until breakfast. If the weather is agreeable, a walk outdoors highlights the morning activities. The walks often take on the nature of a field trip as students observe and learn about the world of nature and neighbors they meet along the way. Visits are made, especially in the summer, to the local Northwest Bank, the Sheffield
Library, Tops Supermarket, or the local Thrift Shop. The public playground is a popular and frequent stop as well. A rest or even a nap follows lunch. Afternoon time is then devoted to crafts and projects and the development of writing and reading skills. Snacks, perhaps an episode of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, and additional time for play completes the busy day until mom and dad arrive to pick up their child.
A Daycare goal is to prepare the children for future learning and living. Beyond learning manners, children learn to use scissors, crayons, and pencils. Each day, staff members read stories to the children and provide opportunities for them to ask questions and exchange answers. The children are encouraged to be friendly and to interact with one another and with adults they meet during the daily walks.
Unfortunately, the Covid 19 pandemic has significantly impacted some daily activities, particularly the children’s visits and conversations at local businesses. Also eliminated this year was the Daycare’s involvement in the local three-day Johnny Appleseed Festival, an event that would have occured immediately across the street from the Smith Center.
The summer program of the Daycare has become popular to local children. “We try to show kids more in depth the things they like,” MaryAnne explained.“The program is built on high-interest themes for children including topics like dinosaurs, space travel, and insects.” Learning is year-long at the Center!
The Ruth M. Smith Daycare is, indeed, a most valuable service to the parents and residents of the Sheffield community. It is, as MaryAnne puts it, “a little jewel of the area.”