About Us

Seeking to fill the void for early childhood education in Hunterdon County, owners Jill Leary and Lynne Baka opened the flagship First Step Learning Center in Lebanon. Having spent years as educators, Jill and Lynne were motivated by the belief that each child’s individual learning style should be met foremost. Enhanced by small class size and a hands-on approach to learning using concrete objects and manipulatives, children at First Step Learning Centers are encouraged to discover and explore through play. This approach to education helps to ensure a lifelong love of learning that supports each child as they grow into adulthood.

The proof of success is not only evident from the bright and inquisitive graduates of First Step’s programs. Throughout the years, Jill and Lynne have never lost sight of their initial objective and continue to be actively involved and available to every child, in every school, every day.

Choosing First Step Learning Center is to choose a warm, attentive, individualized and exciting learning experience for your child during some of the most important developmental years of his or her life.

We encourage you to come explore the fun for yourself!

 

FAQ:

1. What is the philosophy of First Step Learning Centers as a whole?

First Step Learning Center was established in 1987 with the intention of nurturing child development. Highly trained educators and classrooms that are equipped with learning center tools expose your child to language, math, science, music, art, gross motor play and dramatic play. These tools may include books, computers, blocks, paint, play dough, sensory tables, dress up clothes and props, manipulative toys, etc.

The teachers guide and encourage children to explore and learn in each of these areas while implementing the curriculum through meaningful play. Teachers supervise and participate in children’s play, both modeling and/or observing. Through this process, children develop problem solving strategies and enhance their curiosity and sense of discovery, all while reaching specific learning goals.

2. How does this philosophy encourage learning?

We believe that children attain knowledge through “hands on” experience. This belief is supported by extensive child development research. Using materials and equipment appropriate to the children’s developmental levels, our programs offer children the opportunities to discover on their own, as well as guided by their teachers. Our daily schedule provides time for proctored learning, organized play and free play. Weather permitting, we participate in outdoor play each day, and offer alternative indoor play experiences on rainy or very cold days.

3. What are the qualifications of the teachers and staff at First Step Learning Centers?

The teachers are highly qualified educators with training, experience and education in Early Childhood Education. Our teachers strive to provide an environment of trust, care, respect and individuality for each child. All employees are CPR and First Aid Certified.

4. How many children are in each class at First Step Learning Centers?

Our pre-school ratios change based on enrollment, but we make it a point to maintain substantially lower than the New Jersey requirements. We believe this is pivotal in enhancing each child’s individuality and learning experience.  

5. What is the discipline policy at First Step Learning Centers?

We believe it is normal for children to act from their own perspectives. We talk with children about how their actions affect others and encourage them to verbalize their feelings. We encourage them to learn to respect the rights of others and to become thoughtful, caring learners and friends. By respecting a children’s right to his or her feelings, we have found that he or she will eventually show the same respect to others.

6. Are there snack times and/or lunch times?

Each school provides healthy snacks for children during morning and afternoon sessions. Parents are encouraged to donate and may provide snacks for birthday celebrations, etc. Should your child remain with us for lunch as part of their program, the student should bring their own lunch. Please note that *ALL* schools are nut free.

7. How do First Step Learning Centers communicate with parents about their children?

There are numerous ways that we communicate with parents. We may talk with parents about the children when they are brought into school at the beginning of each session and again when the parents pick children up at the end of the session. Monthly newsletters are provided to parents online with information about their child’s day: the concepts and themes being introduced, songs being sung, books being read, projects their child is working on, as well as special events and activities that are being planned. Also, we conduct once yearly formal evaluations of your child’s progress, and may do so more often if we feel it is appropriate. 

8. Can parents visit their child’s class?

We always encourage parents to participate in any capacity in their child’s class. Your child’s teacher can advise you in the many different ways in which you can volunteer your time and talents during daily activities and special events.  Please note that visits must be scheduled with your child’s teacher. Because our classrooms schedule their sleep, rest or quiet time at various intervals between 12:30-2:30, we ask that no visits are scheduled during these hours.

9. How are “separation problems” handled with children at drop off times?
Parents are encouraged to introduce their children to a familiar staff member at each drop off time. It is important to tell the child you are leaving and will return in a short time to pick him/her up. It is best to keep “good-byes” loving and concise. Lingering good-byes can be painful to the child.

We will contact the parent by phone if the child remains upset and is unable to participate in the classroom activities. We will inform the parents if we feel any adjustments need to be made in order to make the separation easier. 

10. What happens if my child is sick?  

We follow NJ Board of Health regulations pertaining to when a child needs to stay home. It is important to follow these guidelines in order to protect the health and well being of the other children, their families and our staff. 
  *All children must have updated immunizations except when exempted by BOH.* 

12. Can I coordinate my child’s session times to fit into my scheduling needs? 

While we feel it is important to keep in mind consistency and the content flow of your child’s program, particularly in the Pre-K, Fun With Fives and Kindergarten programs, we are happy to work with you to tailor session times, i.e., early/late drop off and pick up, that will meet your needs.

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