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Go Ask Mom

New downtown Raleigh childcare center offers on-site, near-site, pop-up care

Posted July 16
Updated July 18

Courtesy: Alice Nelson

There's a new and different kind of childcare option on the scene for busy parents, who are looking for part-time or full-time options for their kids, in downtown Raleigh - and beyond.

Little Makers Academy is the brainchild of Alice Nelson, a third generation licensed educator and mom of two toddlers, who discovered the need for more customized child care options when her husband, an IT professional, had to miss their daughter's preschool performance because of work commitments and heavy traffic leaving Research Triangle Park.

Little Makers opened its first location in downtown Raleigh this month. It's currently open from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., but licensed to stay open until 10 p.m., and serves kids ages six weeks to 12 years. There's more here than just your typical daycare center. The focus is on collaborative learning, with lots of hands-on STEM (that's science, technology, engineering and math) activities and a "makerspace," where kids can get involved in creating and critical thinking.

But Nelson has plans for Little Makers beyond the downtown Raleigh location. Her vision includes helping companies set up their own onsite or near-site centers for their employees and pop-up or short-term programs to help out parents who just need to run some errands or want to spend some time creating with their kids. Little Makers has held pop-up programs for Citrix and elsewhere.

So parents and businesses can learn more, Little Makers will host an open tour and activities at 1 p.m., Saturday, July 22. It's also planning a community party for "current and future little makers" from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., Aug. 6. They both take place a the center at 2801 S. Wilmington St., Raleigh.

I checked in with Nelson to learn more about Little Makers. Here's a Q&A:

Go Ask Mom: What is Little Makers Academy?

Alice Nelson: We have a beautiful location with over 6,500 square feet and three playgrounds, seven classrooms, a kitchen, a multipurpose room for indoor play and a Makerspace. A Makerspace is a place in which people with shared interests, especially in technology, can gather to work on projects while sharing ideas, equipment, and knowledge.

Little Makers uses re-purposed materials to build. We also have a global component where we connect with schools across the globe using Skype to play "Mystery Skype." This is because, as a teacher, I've found geography and global learning to be a missing component in education. We also offer LegoWedo 2.0, robotics camps, Breakout edu, and a lot more "Four C" based activities. (The "Four Cs" are critical thinking, communication, collaboration and creativity).

We are founded by licensed teachers and run by licensed teachers. Children that come to our school will definitely be at an advantage when it comes to Common Core curriculum. I'm also licensed in Special Education and School Administration.

GAM: You're helping others set up quality childcare centers?

AN: We also help employers set up onsite and near-site Little Makers workshops, childcare nurseries, centers, or backup care through our Corporate Partnership Program.

GAM: What were you seeing in the business and childcare world that made you realize there was a hole in the market to fill?

AN: Parents need work-life balance and children need more than just supervision. We customize our hours, programming and curriculum to meet the needs of the whole family. We are also in love with making things. Kids of Little Makers will learn from an early age that learning is not passive, but active. Learning by doing!

We also saw a need in preschool and camps for more science, such as circuits and experiments, math and art to learn the character trait that if something is broken, fix it - or, they can build something completely new.

GAM: What's your vision for Little Makers' future?

AN: I would love to see more employers across the country promote work-life balance by providing on or near-site makerspace childcare for parents. We've seen too many women executives step down after having children or fear of losing their jobs because of children. Society should see children as an asset and not an obstacle when it comes to climbing the corporate ladder. The government incentivizes onsite care in the way of tax deductions.

Lastly, education is not passive, it's active. School should be a safe place for kids that they are excited about attending. The teachers should be well compensated, which can happen when employers back the space rent for the near-site building. This reduces teacher turnover, the corporation receives a tax break, kids are happy, parents pay a little less, and it is a win-win for all!

Nelson recently launched an online fundraising campaign. Her page on iFundWomen.com has more information.

Go Ask Mom features local moms every Monday.

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