Appletree Children’s Center, Hamden
September 2011. Our daughter just graduated from Appletree after spending a little over two years there full time. She was in three classes altogether: “transitions,” pre-school, and pre-K. Overall we were extremely happy with the care she received there. The directors are warm, open, involved, and know all the kids and parents by name. The staff include a mix of younger and older care providers/teachers, some are relatively new but a few have decades of experience. We were happy to find that our daughter’s pre-K teacher was male (unusual for most daycare centers and a very positive experience for our daughter). The building is a newer construction and classrooms are bright, clean, and well stocked. Even the two older classrooms (pre-school and pre-k), which are located in the basement, are well lit and cheerful. There is a large outdoor play area and the kids go outside twice per day weather permitting, including lots of water play during the summer months. Playground equipment is pretty minimal, but the kids always had a good time. (If we had been there another year or two I would have advocated for better equipment.) Otherwise, the days are highly structured and I thought they maintained a good balance between open play, supervised activities, and focused learning. In pre-K, there was a strong emphasis on learning letters and numbers as well as basic writing skills. I thought it did a great job of preparing our daughter for kindergarten. The older classes were also well focused on developing good social skills. I feel like they maintained a high level of discipline in the classroom but did so with a light touch. Snacks are provided but kids need to bring their own lunch.
Overall, the strengths of Appletree are many. It provides a warm, safe, constructive environment for both play and learning. They have one of the best schedules of all the daycare facilities in the area: open from 7:00 am to 6:00 pm and they rarely close for holidays. They were also very good about staying open even during bad weather. It is a very supportive environment for working parents in that way. I also felt the fees were reasonable (at least compared to others in the area and out of state) and they have a generous vacation policy (charging half for up to three weeks of vacation time). Our one negative experience involved shuffling kids back and forth daily between pre-school and pre-K classes depending on daily attendance. This seemed to emphasize maintaining low staff numbers over classroom consistency. The school never really discussed this openly with the parents (we found out by talking to teachers and from our kids). But I should say that our daughter was never adversely affected by this–she actually liked the change up.
I would recommend Appletree without any reservations. Our daughter had a wonderful experience. And we met some great families too.
Andy Q., parent
June 2011. I feel incredibly lucky for the care provided at Apple Tree. My son, now 3, has been going there full time since he was 4 months old and has been joined by his younger sister, who has been there for her first year of life. The teachers are consistently engaged and deeply dedicated to the daily experience of each individual child. I feel comfortable leaving them at Apple Tree, knowing they are learning so much every day through the curriculum and from their peers. More importantly, I know they are loved and safe while I am at work. In addition, the teachers are INCREDIBLY thoughtful and supportive as issues arise (ie transitioning if there is a difficult drop-off) and go above and beyond! They have consistently responded to any suggestions we have made (ie around snacks).
The director and co-director are very available and present. Phone calls are answered within seconds and the school very rarely closes — even when public schools close for snow, they are often still open. . . very helpful for two working parents. Beyond the teachers, we have been very grateful for the families we have met through Apple Tree and these friendships extend beyond the classroom for playdates, birthday celebrations, etc. I recommend Apple Tree without reservation for this age group.
Jen E., parent
April 2011. Our daughter has been at Appletree for 2 years. I always feel happy when I walk through the door, and I know that I am leaving my daughter in a place where she is loved and engaged. The school day is highly structured with stimulating activities including art every day. The kids go out twice a day to play in all types of weather (as long as it’s above 30 degrees) and often get dirty digging for worms, a sure sign they’re having fun. The ratio for 0-3 year olds is 4 kids per teacher, and the teachers she has had have been caring and really know her well. There is detailed communication in writing every day about what she did (the green sheet). Potty training is part of the two year old curriculum! She has socialized as part of a community and cares a lot about her classmates. In the twos classroom, the students have lots of books, and read in a group and on their own. There are a few limitations: As she gets older, I feel more aware of Appletree’s design as a child care center rather than as pre-school. There is a curriculum which changes monthly and is largely play and exploration based, although the school could do a better job communicating to parents how this fits into an educational philosophy beyond Appletree centers (for example, the pre-school’s kid-initiated inquiry building their own helicopter this year sounds a lot like Reggio-Emilia). Decisions about moving kids around in the afternoon sometimes focus on minimizing staffing rather than giving the kids continuity (although this is generally infrequent.) The outdoor play area is nice and they are working on adding more play structures outside, although I wish there were also an indoor gym space kids could go when the weather is lousy. These suggestions however are minimal in comparison to the overall experience. We’ve been terrifically happy having our daughter at Appletree, and I would recommend it highly and without reservation.
Mira D., parent
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