Annette Foster (left) does an activity with preschool students Bart Nicholson and Winnie Stott at Natural Wonders Learning Center on Westwood Drive. The new center opened last week. ANDREW McGINN | JEFFERSON HERALDCenter director Nicole Timmons plays last week with Desmond McCaleb in the Blossom Room at Natural Wonders Learning Center. ANDREW McGINN | JEFFERSON HERALD

New child care center open for learning


It seems wrong in a way to say, but now that a new child care center is up and running, we can pivot to getting that brew pub.

One of the long desired amenities to help Jefferson become more attractive to young families — expanded child care — became a reality last week with the opening of Natural Wonders Learning Center on Westwood Drive.

The mother-daughter team of Annette Foster and Nicole Timmons quit their jobs as public school teachers to open the center, which serves children ages six weeks to 5 years, with an after-school program as well.

“To be able to grow, and for families to want to move here, there needs to be options for families,” said Timmons, the center director.

Timmons dropped her kids off at Greene County Elementary last Thursday for the start of the 2018-19 school year — but for the first time in 10 years, she didn’t stay.

“It was different dropping the girls off and just being a parent,” she said.

For the past 10 years, Timmons taught at the local elementary school, at various points teaching pre-K, first grade and second grade.

Foster, her mom and business partner, taught transitional kindergarten (TK) at Dayton Elementary in the Southeast Valley district for nearly 20 years.

Foster is now the center’s preschool teacher, engaging young students in the Willow  — one of five nature-themed rooms at Natural Wonders, a 3,800-square-foot facility they built from the ground up.

There’s also the Nest (under 1), the Sprout Room (1 year olds), the Blossom Room (2 year olds) and the Meadow, an open space for the after-school crowd.

Timmons, a 2001 graduate of Jefferson-Scranton High School and a 2006 graduate of Iowa State University, touts their background in the public schools.

“We’ve worked with kids our whole lives,” she said. “We know what’s developmentally appropriate for them.”

The goal is to prepare kids for school “so that they’re able to learn and do their best,” Timmons said.

They’ll do that through open-ended play inside and out.

A natural playscape out back, which hasn’t yet been installed, won’t feature traditional playground equipment. Instead, it will feature a sand area with a boat in it, an outdoor kitchen and other fun things.

Timmons drew inspiration for the natural playscape by watching her own children at  play in parks, making note of what they — and what they don’t — play with.

In lieu of the playscape, kids last week got to watch as the neighboring Krieger family harvested grapes from vines directly behind the center.

They’ll then watch how grape juice is made.

Meals at the center are served family style.

“We’ve had a few spills,” Timmons said, “but it’s a good skill for them to learn, to be able to scoop their own food.”

During their time at Natural Wonders, kids also will learn how to recycle, and the center is walking the walk by going paperless. Each child’s daily log — containing times of diaper changes, incident reports and more — is updated in real time via an app.

A garden in the spring will be as practical as it is educational, producing vegetables for the center.

The center has capacity for 75 children. About 40 kids started at the center last week, Timmons said.

The center employs six full-time staff and two part-timers, she said.

The center’s preschool program starts Tuesday, and will meet Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays from 8:30 to 11 a.m.

“The families that visited,” Timmons said, “seemed blown away with everything.”

To contact Natural Wonders Learning Center, email or call 515-386-2317.

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Jefferson Bee & Herald
Address: 200 N. Wilson St.
Jefferson, IA 50129

Phone:(515) 386-4161