BRUNSWICK — Like any childcare center, the children at Bright Beginnings will be learning their letters — but you won’t find them tracing their names in pencil on paper. Instead, the children will most likely be found writing their letters in a patch of sand or with sticky gobs of Cool Whips, with grins plastered on their faces. That’s because, at Bright Beginnings, play-based learning is key. 

The center is Brunswick’s newest childcare center, which opened Nov. 4 at Brunswick Landing in the building formerly occupied by Wild Oats and New Beet Market. They are still enrolling children ages six weeks to five years old. 

Bright Beginnings at the Landing, a new childcare center for children ages six weeks to five years old opened at Brunswick Landing Nov. 4. Hannah LaClaire/The Times Record

Though perhaps known more as a center for innovation, Brunswick Landing is becoming a childcare hub in its own right, as Bright Beginnings joins Family Focus, Pathways and the Brunswick Recreation Department, all of which have their own daycare or preschool offerings.

With 2,000 employees now working at the former Brunswick Naval Air Station, owner Kelsey Alexander and assistant director Terra Travis feel they have scored the perfect location. 

“There’s a huge need in the area,” Alexander said, adding that the center only four minutes from the Cook’s Corner exit, and the “base is building up a lot.” 

The space is somewhat of a dream come true for Alexander and Travis. The two have worked together in childcare for more than eight years (though Travis has more than 25 years of experience), and always talked about opening a center. It wasn’t until the last two years or so, that planning really took off, according to Scott Mills, community relations director for Bright Beginnings. 

“It took a ton of hard work,” with the two going yard sailing, shopping, getting creative and using good old fashioned elbow grease to put it together, he said, adding that with Travis and Alexander’s personal commitment to its success, “they’re going to make it work.” 

Bright Beginnings is in “build-up mode,” but will hold 77 kids when full, with 14 experienced employees. They offer full and part-time programs for children. The 4,200 square-foot space has five child rooms, each equipped with their own bathrooms, access to a kitchen, and door to one of the two playgrounds. 

One of their “specialties,” Alexander said, is their infant care, which she feels sets them apart from other centers, which often won’t accept babies — younger children require a ratio of more staff per number of children, there’s more risk and in many ways, they require more care, she said.

Another thing that she said sets them apart is Brightwheel; an app created specifically for childcare practices with sign-in/out, payment, messaging, assessments, calendars, updates, and even video monitoring throughout the day, all on the app. 

They declined to name the weekly cost of care, but said they were “in market.” 

According to the 2018 Maine Child Care Market Rate Survey, the average fair market price per county in the “75th percentile,” was $303 per week in Cumberland county for full-day care infants, $279 for toddlers and $259 per week for preschool-aged children. In neighboring Sagadahoc county those numbers are significantly lower, at $185 for infants and toddlers and $189 for preschool-aged children. Statewide, “market rate” ranged from the 50th percentile (meaning 50% of surveyed centers had rates at or below the rate) of $215 for infants, $200 for toddlers and $189 for infants, to the 90th, with $308 per week for infants, $280.77 for toddlers and $267 for preschool-aged children. 

Brunswick’s preschool program at the Recreation Department is for children ages three to five and costs $317 per month for five-day care for residents and $421 per month for non-residents, but the programming is only for two hours per day. 

Learning Land Nursery School in Brunswick, which moved from the First Parish Church to the United Methodist Church earlier this year after a few uncertain months, has a similar two and a half hour per day program, at $360 per month for the five days. 

This, according to Alexander, is another way that Bright Beginnings stands out, by offering care all day for parents who may not be able to leave work after just a few hours to pick up their children. 

“This whole age group of six weeks to five is the most crucial time for a child’s development,” she said. 

A 2016 early childhood education brief from Educate Maine, reported that “the more we learn about human development, the more we understand the importance of early childhood nurturing for lifetime success. Early childhood begins with birth and continues to third grade. At each stage of growth along the way, a child can benefit from the nurture and stimulation of high-quality early childhood education. The early years are the best time to prevent achievement gaps from developing and becoming locked in.” 

A 2018 Educate Maine report found that last year, 42% of three and four-year-olds attended a public or private preschool in Maine. The same report estimates that if all Maine students had full-time early education from birth to Kindergarten, over 1,000 more economically disadvantaged students would graduate from high school. 

“It’s all about the children’s needs,” Travis said. The curriculum is play-based, very hands-on, with a focus on social-emotional learning (sharing, playing with others, using words to express feelings, listening to friends, etc.). Once children enter the three-year-old room, they begin taking baby steps to Kindergarten. They have a routine and stay as consistent as possible to help children feel safe. 

“Choosing the right center can make a world of a difference,” Alexander said.  

Bright Beginnings the Landing is open Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. For more information call 844-8527 or email [email protected] 

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