Liam, Betsy and Hollie McLachlan. Hollie McLachlan is the co-owner of Chickadee Infant and Toddler Care, opening in South Portland on Aug. 30. Courtesy photo Tricia Toms

SOUTH PORTLAND — Opening Aug. 30 at 72 MacArthur Circle East in South Portland, Chickadee Infant and Toddler Care hopes to address and fulfill some Mainers’ needs for childcare.

The Waldorf-inspired center promises “Safe. Loving. Care.” in its tagline, Hollie McLachlan, co-owner, said. Chickadee will be moving into the former Roots and Fruits location.

Chickadee is a Waldorf-Reggio blend, she said, adding that the Waldorf model was developed in Germany over 100 years ago by Rudolph Steiner.

“Waldorf is a nature-based approach,” she said. “We bring a lot of natural materials inside, into the classroom. You could walk into any Waldorf school in the entire world and know you’re in a Waldorf school because of the objects of the environment and the materials that are used. So along those lines, you won’t find any plastic toys. There’s wood, beeswax, organic cotton. It’s because children are interacting with their environment, especially babies.”

McLachlan, who has experience in daycare and teaching, experienced the stress of searching for childcare in Maine right before the pandemic hit in March of 2020, she said.

“When I had my son I found myself in this daunting situation of being on five different waiting lists, not knowing if he would have a placement for care, not knowing what I would do in terms of my job if we couldn’t find fulltime care for him,” McLachlan said. “So I thought, ‘OK, I have no guarantees. I have the knowledge. I have the background. Why don’t I just open up my own place? I’m passionate about babies. Why don’t I do it?'”

Since then, McLachlan has partnered with co-owner Amy Crowley, and the two women, working to open in South Portland, have also hope to expand services to other Maine towns, McLachlan said.

“Truly, nothing brings me greater joy than knowing we are providing a safe, unique and nurturing environment for our littlest humans in Maine,” Crowley said. “There is alarming scarcity of quality and affordable care, and we sincerely hope to help fill the gap.”

McLachlan said that she believes her inspiration to open a daycare hit at the right moment in time, just before the pandemic affected other families.

“For those of us who are privileged and fortunate enough to ride this wave and create something good out of it, then we should do that,” McLachlan said.

Chickadee has not been able to offer tours yet, but parents have already completed registrations, she said.

“We have people committing to the care year by giving us their security deposits because the climate for daycare is so desperate right now,” McLachlan said. “Parents are desperate to return to work and there is nowhere for their children to go, and Amy and I just couldn’t get it set up fast enough.”

According to an article by staff writer Hannah LaClaire in the Portland Press Herald, more than 170 day cares have closed in Maine over the last year.

McLachlan said that although Chickadee has a handful of spots open, she also recommends parents who are interested inquire about Chickadee’s waitlist, either for the South Portland location or for future locations.

“We’re opening in South Portland, but our hope and ambition is to expand to Falmouth and maybe even beyond because we know the need is there,” she said. “The need is so great, and we’re hoping to fill that void.”

In Chickadee’s Waldorf-Reggio blended model, Reggio being the Emilia Reggio approach, staff members, who Chickadee is requesting be vaccinated, will lay out classrooms in ways that allow children to go toward activities most attractive to them, McLachlan said.

“The teachers teach by modeling behavior,” she said. “This is a child-led approach. We follow the guidance of what the children want. If the kids are interested in rainbows, say, then it’s up to the teachers to provide the provocations. This is where Reggio comes in because it’s the teachers’ job to arrange the room in such a way that the children will gravitate towards what they’re interested in.”

In a Waldorf or Waldorf-inspired school, plastic toys are not present, McLachlan said.

“When you’re touching these organic, soft silks and beautiful wooden toys, that tactile sensation is a different experience than when you’re playing with a mass-produced piece of plastic,” she said. “There’s nothing inherently wrong with plastic toys. It’s just that when you’re working under this model, you’re bringing nature and the beauty of nature and things that were living and alive to children. That does something to you in a very positive way, even for us as adults, but just imagine how wonderful it is for a child, to be exposed to this wonderful, encompassing environment.”

The daycare will follow DHHS guidelines for infants and children, McLachlan said.

“Our babies can’t be vaccinated and like I said, our tagline is ‘Safe. Loving. Care,'” she said. “If we’re living by our mission and safety comes first, then I’m not willing to take any risk for any child to have exposure.”

To contact Chickadee, visit chickadeedaycare.com or call 815-8560.

Comments are not available on this story.

filed under: