We got the chance to interview Nicole Jefferies, owner of Creative Caterpillars Early Learning Nursery in Lansdowne, PA. She’s a mom, a wife and much more. Learn more about who she is, what she does and all about Creative Caterpillars.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? Who are you and what do you do?
I am the Owner of Creative Caterpillars Early Learning Nursery in Lansdowne, PA. Wife, mother of two teenagers and Chestnut Hill College Alum.
Describe yourself in 5 words.
Driven, Nurturer, Advocate, self-proclaimed Philanthropist, Humble
Do you have any unique talents or hobbies?
I love to plan events! I’ve considered getting into event planning professionally but decided to stay focused on my true passion.
What made you want to start your own business?
I’ve actually been in the early childhood field for over 15 years. I’ve taught preschool (ages 3-5years) and moved to management as a Center Director. I’ve also work in the human services field as a Violence Prevention Counselor and Program Director for an Out Of School Time Program. So, I’ve always had the passion for serving children but always knew that I had a greater purpose in my life.
Tell us more about Creative Caterpillars.
I operate an early childhood childcare program servicing infants and toddlers ages six weeks through three years old. We are currently located in my home but will be expanding to another intimate location in Lansdowne at the end of the year.
We promote infant/toddler development through a program based on the four developmental domains (social, emotional, cognitive and physical development) in mixed age group setting. The role of supportive, positive relationships cannot be over-emphasized in its importance of promoting healthy development. We know how critical the early years of a child’s development are, and understand that experiences in the first years of each child’s life have a lifetime impact on whom they will become as adults.
Involving family is another priority of Creative Caterpillars. We would like to consider ourselves an extension of your family, developing a partnership where sharing support, ideas, and genuine love is of the utmost importance. We encourage parents to visit and participate in our daily activities.
Can you describe the time when you first realized that working with children was something you absolutely had to do?
I’ve always wanted to be a teacher since I was young. I always had to play the teacher when playing school with my cousins. I realized that early childhood was for me when I was working my first teacher’s assistant position at a daycare in West Philadelphia. Watching how the teacher I worked with intentionally planned lessons based off the needs of each student, and how the students worked on and developed the skills that were intentionally planned.
What made you want to start your own child care center?
Teaching preschoolers, I saw a huge increase in early intervention services. It was frustrating as a teacher because children would begin preschool at age 3, 4 or even 5 and would be developmentally behind and was not prepared to enter Kindergarten. So I wanted to make sure that children were on track at an early age.
What is the best thing about working with toddlers?
As with all children, there is never a dull moment! I believe tiny humans (that’s what I refer them as) have the purest hearts and kindest spirits. Sometime we (adults) underestimate their abilities. They are very impressionable at this age but they teach me more than what I ever could teach them.
How have you grown your business from an idea to where it is now?
Through a lot of researching, planning, setting short and long term goals and most importantly, staying focused.
Professionally, what’s your goal?
Earn a Star 4 in the Keystone Stars program. It’s a program that assists and reward early childhood programs in providing quality services to children.
What are you wins in 2017?
I would say, sending off my first group of Caterpillars to preschool and purchasing our new facility.
It’s a touchy subject, but there have been a lot of stories in the news about child abuse and more happening at daycare centers or with child care providers, how do you build trust with your parents?
The great thing about us (Creative Caterpillars) is that we all are a small close knitted family. Since my business is in my home, my husband and children are a part of my business and my families as well as staff are considered extended family. We have an open door policy for our parents to come in whenever they like. We communicate through text daily. I’m an unofficial paparazzi so the children’s days are documented and share with families often. I’m a parent myself and is very cautious about who is around my children so I try and give parents the sense of comfort that I know that I would want when I’m not around my kids.
What can parents look for in a trusted daycare situation?
Parent’s should definitely TRUST THEIR GUT!! If you feel like the environment isn’t right, act on it. Your child is your most precious gift and you are their first and best advocate. Plan an unscheduled visit during the day to see what your child is doing…don’t let them see you though! It will definitely disrupt their day. During the visit, pay attention to the staff (supervision, moods, etc.), safety concerns and don’t be afraid to have discussions with management if you have a concern.
What’s the best thing about being a childcare provider?
Watching my Caterpillars grow up and blossom into beautiful butterflies. Throughout the years, I’ve had the chance to see children that I’ve taught in the past. It’s amazing to see the fruits of your labor…looking at them a little bit older, hearing about their academic achievements, social development..etc.
What’s the worst thing about being a childcare provider?
The business management part. It consumes a lot of time that I would like to spend with the Caterpillars, but who’s going to do it if I don’t? lol
Let our readers in on some of the frustrations behind the work, or an especially difficult project.
I think that the most difficult thing right now is my daily routine: trying to make sure our program is aligned with state learning standards, preparing to level up for Keystone Stars, creating lesson plans, implementing lessons, managing staff and children files, supervising and engaging the children, keeping toddlers safe, answering a million questions (most I don’t understand but pretend that I do) from toddlers, diffusing tantrums and preparing the new building for the transition (renovations, licensing, furnishing, etc.), keeping my house clean and tidy every day, preparing meals for the kids and family. Lastly, trying to balance home life. Whew!
What do you think are the qualities that define a quality childcare provider?
Childcare providers must have patience, competent (knowledgeable about child development), good verbal and written communication skills (to communicate with children, families and peers), positive attitude and spirit, reliable, have a sense of humor, nurturing, high energy level, attentive, enjoys working and playing with children.
How do you keep yourself motivated?
It’s only two things that keep me motivated every day. 1. My children. I strive to give them better opportunities than what I had. 2. My daycare children. It’s my responsibility to give them the best experience so they can begin their school careers and life successfully.
Do you have any tips or inspiring words for others?
I would just say, stay true to yourself. If you have a passion or dream, set goals and work towards accomplishing them.
What can we expect from you in the future?
My goal is to have a chain of Creative Caterpillars. My mission is to continue to provide quality childcare services for infants and toddlers in an intimate family oriented environment in Philly and the Tri State Area.
Where else can we find more information about you and your business?