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Best Preschools and Daycares

by Colleen Patrice Clark and Amanda Hamm Hengel; Natalie Marra contributed to this feature

Suburban Family's Best Preschools and Daycares Colleen Patrice Clark and Amanda Hamm Hengel; Natalie Marra contributed to this feature …From the pages of Suburban Family Magazine…

There used to be a lot of guilt associated with enrolling young children in daycare and preschool, whether it was because the mom and dad both had to work or they were looking for their child to begin developing their social skills. However, that’s no longer the case. With the majority of teachers holding bachelor’s degrees along with a surprising array of enrichment activities—from karate to Chinese lessons—today’s early childhood education centers are recognized as more than a foundation; they’re a head start.

The biggest question now is who to trust. That’s why Suburban Family has once again put together our list of Best Preschools & Daycares, compiled through a comprehensive survey each facility had to complete that included school offerings, student-to-teacher ratios and, of course, schedule choices for busy parents. The result is the following 20 schools throughout Burlington, Camden and Gloucester counties.

ABC Academy Preschool
901 Route 168, Suite 402 | Turnersville (856) 374-7100
Hours: 9:30 a.m. to noon or 1 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Programs: Nursery Program (Tuesday and Thursday mornings or afternoons) and Pre-K Program (Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings or afternoons)
Fees: $21 per session, paid monthly
Ages: 3 to 5 years
Waitlist: Yes, there is a morning waitlist.
With small class sizes (21 children per session) and low student-to-teacher ratios, this school offers a tight-knit community where children can grow and learn under careful guidance from teachers—who have been there all 26 years—with bachelor’s degrees in education. Though classes only operate on a part-time schedule, this is the perfect place for children to be exposed to a school setting for the first time.
What Parents Say: “My children loved the teachers and were well prepared for kindergarten. They offer the students a variety of experiences in the classroom from science to music to history. I am very pleased with the quality of education children can get at ABC Academy.” –Rebecca Powers

Blooming Buds Childcare Center
700 2nd St., Suites A & B | Swedesboro (856) 241-7611
Hours: 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Programs: Infants through pre-K, with half-day preschool and pre-K available
Fees: $42-$48 per day, $175-$205 per week, and $27 per day for the half-day programs
Ages: 6 weeks to 6 years
Waitlist: Yes, for certain classes
Owned by a husband and wife team armed with 20 years of educational experience between them, Blooming Buds centers its curriculum on the development of the children, providing them with activities and lessons geared toward honing basic skills and also introducing them to more advanced skills like Spanish, sign language and science experiments. The center creates a welcoming community where parent involvement is encouraged and celebrated with days like Mother’s Day Tea and Donuts for Daddy.
What’s New?: They recently implemented a “Character Education Program,” which focuses on personal development for each child, teaching appropriate behaviors and actions through positive discipline practices.

Bright Beginnings Academy
315 Fries Mill Road | Sewell | (856) 582-1144
1600 Chapel Ave. W. | Cherry Hill | (856) 438-5321
Hours: 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Programs: Full- and half-day options
Fees: Costs vary depending on school/program
Ages: 2 1/2 through kindergarten
Waitlist: No
Bright Beginnings focuses on a hands-on approach to learning, introducing many social components into the classroom. Students participate in activities that involve collaboration and creativity, such as group cooking classes, yoga, computer learning and more. Bright Beginnings’ teachers all hold bachelor’s degrees, and many have been with the school since it opened in 1978. Making complicated schedules just a little bit easier, the school offers different flexible scheduling options in the months of July and August.
What’s New?: Bright Beginnings upgraded its classrooms and created a SMART Board media room.

Chesterbrook Academy
279 Egg Harbor Road | Sewell | (856) 589-5800
Hours: 6:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Programs: Infant, toddler, beginner, intermediate, pre-K and kindergarten programs with part-time, full-time and half-day (mornings only) options
Fees: $137-$153 for half days per week, $233-$268 for full days, and $195 for kindergarten academic day
Ages: 6 weeks to 6 years
Waitlist: No
The school offers a number of options for programming, so parents who work full time, as well as stay-at-home moms hoping to get a head start on their child’s education, can take advantage of all its amenities. In addition to its academic offerings, extracurricular activities including tiny tumbling, karate and soccer are also offered (for an additional cost), which means plenty of time in the classroom but also ample time to work off extra energy.
What’s New? Chesterbrook Academy was recently chosen as a pilot school to launch a new iPod and iPad program.

Congregation Beth El’s Early Childhood Center
8000 Main St. | Voorhees (856) 675-1166
Hours: 6:45 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Programs: Full- and half-day options
Fees: $2,256 for partial days to $16,900 for full days per year
Ages: Infant through kindergarten
Waitlist: Yes, for certain classes
The school manages to keep low student-to-teacher ratios in order to facilitate personal and meaningful relationships. Beth El’s teachers all hold bachelor’s degrees, and half have either a master’s or a special certification. Beth El also provides a strong program that focuses on social, cognitive, language and motor skills in tandem with spiritual growth, and they offer trips to local museums and community attractions for the older students. Parents have many opportunities to get involved here, whether it’s on the Parent Teacher Group or through the governing board.
What’s New?: The school now offers flexible programs that give families the freedom to customize their child’s education based on their schedules, whether that requires the Breakfast Club before-school program or Afternoon Adventures till 6 p.m.

Creation Academy
360 Garwin Road | Woolwich (856) 467-0988
Hours: 8:30 a.m. to 12:45 p.m.
Programs: Half-day programs
Fees: Fees vary but include $65 Monday, Wednesday and Friday; $47 Tuesday and Thursday
Ages: 2 to 5 years
Waitlist: Yes, for certain classes
The school only offers half-day programs, so parents who need full-day care may need to look elsewhere, but that does not mean their programs aren’t stellar. All teachers have degrees in education or are state certified, and children learn everything from fine and gross motor skills to letter and number recognition with lots of hands-on activities. There are also parent volunteer opportunities, as well as two parent/teacher conferences a year.
Did You Know? Children can stay for the school’s Munch and Mingle program, which includes lunch and playtime, and is an additional hour after regular school hours.

Discovery Corner Child Care & Enrichment Center
53 Haddonfield Road, Suite 322 | Cherry Hill (856) 667-6333
Hours: 6:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Programs: Infant, toddler, pre-school and pre-K programs with half- and full-day options
Fees: $225 full day; $170 half day
Ages: 6 weeks to 12 years
Waitlist: No
The educational approach at the school is that “all learning activities are to be ‘child directed,’ not ‘teacher directed.’” As such, the school fully incorporates the “discovery” part of its name, and students are encouraged to foster their creative energies. The school does follow a formatted daily schedule, and offers literacy and math classes as well as art, foreign language, music, dance and computer classes, and parents are kept up to date thanks to parent/teacher conferences, newsletters and Facebook.
Did You Know? The school has a 9,000-square-foot facility with nine classrooms designed for each milestone of a child’s life.

Friends Academy of Westampton
315 Bridge St. | Westampton | (609) 267-8198
Hours: 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. with before-school care from 7 a.m. to 8:15 a.m. and after-school care from 3:10 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Programs: Preschool (with half- or full-day options) and pre-K and kindergarten (full day)
Fees: $5,300 for half day; $8,600 for full-day pre-K; $8,950 for kindergarten per school year
Ages: Pre-K through eighth grade
Waitlist: No
Along with traditional literacy and mathematics classes, students also have the opportunity to participate in physical education, music and movement, computer, library and art classes, all programs some schools are being forced to cut thanks to budget deficits. Kindergarten students also receive Spanish instruction, and the addition of natural vernal pools with the school’s expanded environmental stewardship program will expose all students to the close study of native plants and animals.
What Parents Say: “I have had three children attend Friends Academy of Westampton, and it is the best-kept secret. The small class sizes combined with low teacher turnover rates makes it an excellent institution of learning. The teachers and head of school go above and beyond to provide a safe and enriched environment for learning.” –Shinette McRae

Friends School Mullica Hill
15 High St. | Mullica Hill | (856) 478-2908
Hours: 8:45 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Programs: Pre-K (three half days, three full days, five half days or five full days) and kindergarten (full day)
Fees: $6,650 pre-K, three half days per year; $10,050 pre-K, three full days or five half days; $13,950 pre-K; $16,050 kindergarten
Ages: Pre-K through eighth grade
Waitlist: Yes, for some classes
The school offers an environment ripe for opportunities of both individual and group discovery. Along with the academic program, students have the opportunity to participate in art, hands-on science, physical education and Spanish classes, all of which are conducted on a 13-acre campus, which includes a full athletic field and 1,300-square-foot library. Parents are updated on progress via social media sites as well as email bulletins, and are encouraged to request conferences as necessary.
Did You Know?: They teach the Quaker Spices (Values) of Simplicity, Peace, Integrity, Community, Equality and Stewardship to all of the students.

The Goddard School
250 Springdale Road | Cherry Hill (856) 751-7234;
10 Jennings Road | Medford (609) 714-8686;
235 Strawbridge Drive | Moorestown (856) 235-7006;
2026D Briggs Road | Mount Laurel (856) 727-4222;
233 N. Main St. | Mullica Hill | (856) 478-4045;
3 Plaza Drive | Sewell | (856) 256-8200;
553 Beckett Road | Swedesboro (856) 467-8477;
1121 Haddonfield-Berlin Road | Voorhees (856) 346-1234
Hours: 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Programs: Morning, afternoon, full day, two to five days per week
Fees: Costs vary. Contact the individual school for information.
Ages: Infants through kindergarten
Waitlist: Yes, in some classrooms
Each child’s unique skills and personality are fostered here thanks to an individual approach to learning. The school’s “flex learning” curriculum revolves around personal/social development, mathematical thinking, and science and technology (think biology and lessons in matter and energy) to help your child develop the four Cs—communication, collaboration, critical thinking and creativity. Teachers attend programs at Goddard Systems University to learn cutting-edge techniques and skills.
Did You Know?: Goddard employs a Quality Assurance team, which makes unannounced visits and provides guidance to directors and teachers on how to continuously improve both in education and in communication with parents.

Haddonfield Friends School
47 N. Haddon Ave. | Haddonfield | (856) 429-6786
Hours: 8:10 a.m. to 3 p.m. with early and late care available from 7:15 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Programs: Full- and half-day programs are offered for five, three or two days
Fees: Costs range from $5,500 to $11,250 per year
Ages: 2 1/2 through eighth grade
Waitlist: Occasionally
The youngsters here can count on weekly visits from teachers in music, Spanish and physical education, along with the librarian. New this year, the Early Childhood Center instituted monthly “Community Days” centered on common themes in which students from each class are mixed together and travel from classroom to classroom to engage in singing, dancing, games, creative art projects and more. The goal is to build a sense of community across the classrooms, allowing the students to become more comfortable with other teachers and students.
What Parents Say: “This afternoon, when I picked Ben up, he had tears in his eyes. It took me a few moments to get out of him what was wrong. He said he was going to miss school and his class and his friends over the weekend. All I could do was hug him and be happy that he loves HFS as much as I do.” —Anna Reitz

Just Children
130 Medford-Mount Holly Road | Medford (609) 714-2244;
2042 Briggs Road | Mount Laurel (856) 642-7676;
1001 Briggs Road | Mount Laurel (856) 840-0880;
14000 J. Commerce Parkway | Mount Laurel (856) 234-8687
Hours: 6:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Programs: Half- and full-day options
Fees: Costs vary by age and number of days attending.
Ages: 8 weeks to kindergarten
Waitlist: Occasionally
Major goals are to provide high-quality care, innovative teaching and creative playtime, which is being accomplished through new activities including weekly fitness classes, a soccer program, and a Handwriting Without Tears program for the preschool class in which each child has a workbook to practice printing. The school also encourages parental interaction and utilizes an app program, Tadpoles, which allows parents to receive daily pictures and videos so they have direct feedback about their child throughout the day.
What Parents Say: “We have been a part of the Just Children family for seven years and we feel confident that our children are in the best hands. The teachers go above and beyond to teach, love and nurture our children.” –Rachel and Jim Amendola

The Learning Experience
421 Third Ave. | Cherry Hill | (856) 662-6002;
401 S. Burnt Mill Road | Voorhees (856) 346-4140
Hours: 6:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.
Programs: Full- and half-day programs offered on a full- or part-time schedule
Fees: Fees vary depending on age
Ages: 6 weeks to 5 years
Waitlist: Yes, depending on age
What makes The Learning Experience unique is the high emphasis on individual attention, which has led to nearly 90 percent of their preschool graduates beginning to read by the time they start kindergarten. There is a strong focus on technology, foreign language introduction, sign language practice and philanthropy as well. The Learning Experience also boasts enrichment programs for its students, such as music, math, science, yoga and performing arts, which are included in the regular tuition cost.
What Parents Say: “It is scary to leave your 8-week-old infant with someone other than family, but we realized that The Learning Experience was our family and there was no better place for our children to be.” —Jackie and Pete McComb

The Malvern School
290 Erial Road | Erial | (856) 784-4100;
515 Centennial Blvd. | Voorhees (856) 489-4440;
329 Greentree Road | Sewell | (856) 218-2300;
5 Eayrestown Road, | Medford | (609) 654-4500
Hours: 6:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Programs: Full/partial weeks, full and half days
Fees: Costs vary by age and schedule and are discussed during parent visit
Ages: Infant through pre-K
Waitlist: No
The school focuses the activities children take part in based on their ages and developmental levels, with the goal to promote physical, social and emotional growth. They offer a variety of academic as well as extracurricular activities—from math and science to music and dance classes—and new this year, the school introduced a civility curriculum in its pre-K and kindergarten enrichment classrooms to promote social communication and etiquette.
Did You Know?: The school is one of the top 100 supporters of the Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation.

Montessori Child Development Center
26 W. Main St. | Marlton | (856) 983-1101
Hours: 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Programs: Half- and full-day options for two to five days a week
Fees: $830-$950 a month for full day,
$660-$735 for half day
Ages: 2 through kindergarten
Waitlist: Occasionally
As a Montessori school, this Marlton preschool works to have students reading, counting, adding and writing when they enter first grade. Along with this complete curriculum, the Montessori Child Development Center also provides an enrichment program with classes including cooking, music and science. Monday through Thursday also has p.m. clubs including sports, Spanish and Chinese. All teachers have bachelor’s degrees or better, and all others are Montessori certified.
Did You Know?: Each class is made up of children of different ages because the educational approach includes the belief that younger students learn from the older ones, and in turn the older students learn by reinforcing their skills with them.

Moorestown Children’s School
760 Garwood Road | Moorestown (856) 235-9040
Hours: 7 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.
Programs: Full and half days, with before- and after-school options
Fees: $3,000 for a half-day school year and $6,000 for a full-day school year
Ages: Infants through fourth grade
Waitlist: Yes, for certain classes
The teachers at the Moorestown Children’s School have a unique opportunity to educate their students, as nature is readily available outside of the classroom, including a farm with ponies, goats and chickens. The programs offered at the school, which contains only about 30 students, are designed to meet each child’s developmental needs. As the children grow, the programs become more involved with higher thinking, teaching students subjects from poetry and rhyme to mathematical reasoning.
Did You Know? Moorestown Children’s School teaches Mandarin to students.

Naudain Academy
6 School Lane | Voorhees | (856) 751-1510
Hours: 9 a.m. to noon half day; 9 a.m. to
3 p.m. full day; 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. all day
Programs: Half and full day, before and after care, full-day kindergarten and summer programs
Fees: Costs range from $7,300 to $11,300 per year
Ages: 18 months to 6 years
Waitlist: Occasionally
The school, which has been part of the Voorhees community for 36 years, offers a Montessori program that teaches children how to not only work well independently but also in groups. Individual learning programs are developed for every child, and parents are encouraged to participate in their child’s education through volunteer opportunities throughout the year. Playtime is enhanced here thanks to a spacious playground and an amphitheater for drama and outside lessons.
What Parents Say: “Naudain Academy is perfect for our family because our daughter loves her teachers, thinks learning is fun and continues to excel. The communication between teacher and parent is paramount. Last, but certainly not least, when people meet our daughter, they often praise her vocabulary and social skills.” —Lisa Cassidy

Rancocas Friends School
201 Main St. | Rancocas (609) 914-0458
Hours: 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., with before care available at 8 a.m. and after care until 6 p.m.
Programs: Full or half day
Fees: Costs vary from $5,150 to $6,150 per year
Ages: 3 1/2 to 6
Waitlist: No
As a one-room schoolhouse, parents should know Rancocas Friends only accepts 15 students at a time—but that means a lot of extra attention is on your child. All staff hold bachelor’s degrees, with concentrations in education, psychology, communications and French. Along with a computer literacy program and lessons in German and French, they also stress community service. Students are involved in Thanksgiving and Christmas collections, as well as a Peace Program that has led them to connect with students around the world.
What Parents Say: “My daughter has attended RFS for nearly two years now. It is a magical place. With teacher Nora’s lead, the class goes on unique adventures such as the annual science trip to LBI. Each child is treated as an individual, learning at their own pace, and in a nurturing environment.” —Amy Vasquez

Sari Isdaner Early Childhood Center at the Katz JCC
1301 Springdale Road | Cherry Hill (856) 424-4444 ext. 1242
Hours: 7 a.m. to 6:15 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays; 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Fridays
Programs: Half, partial and full day
Fees: Costs vary per age and program
Ages: 6 weeks to 6 years
Waitlist: Yes, for some age groups
Along with following the Creative Curriculum—which includes reading readiness, science, math and language skills—Sari Isdaner also offers special enrichment activities such as music and gym classes, art experimentation and dramatic play. An added bonus for peace of mind: All children 3 and up receive free swim lessons through the JCC’s Lenny Krayzelburg Swim Academy. And an added bonus just for fun: The school has an Imaginarium, a two-story indoor climbing structure.
What’s New?: They recently started a wellness program called CATCH—Coordinated Approach to Child Health—which teaches and encourages healthy eating along with an active lifestyle.

Temple Emanuel
1101 Springdale Road | Cherry Hill (856) 489-0034
Hours: 7:30 to 9 a.m., early care; 9 a.m. to noon, morning program; noon to 3 p.m., lunch and enrichment program; 3 to 6:30 p.m., late care
Programs: Half and full day
Fees: Costs vary by age and schedule
Ages: 2 to 6 years
Waitlist: Occasionally
Recognized by the Anti-Defamation League as a “No Place for Hate” school, Temple Emanuel is made up of children from all cultures and faiths and has an active anti-bullying program. The mural-lined hallways help any family feel welcome upon entering, but it’s the enrichment programs, field trips and after-school activities that really help Temple Emanuel stand out. There are programs in computers, science, art, karate, soccer, dance and cooking, as well as monthly special events, plays, and even a preschool prom.
Did You Know?: While 95 percent of the lead teachers hold bachelor’s degrees, one has a master’s and the director has a master’s in speech pathology.

Student to Teacher Ratios
ABC Academy: 7:1, nursery; 10:1, pre-K
Blooming Buds: 4:1, infants; 5:1, toddlers; 10:1, preschool; 15:1, pre-K
Bright Beginnings: 6:1, 2 1/2 year olds; 7-10:1 for older children
Chesterbrook Academy: 4:1, infants and toddlers; 6:1, 18 months to 2 1/2 year olds; 10:1, 2 1/2 to 4; 12:1, pre-K; 15:1, kindergarten
Congregation Beth El: 3:1, infants; 4:1, 1 year olds; 6:1, 2 years; 8:1, 3 years; 9:1, 4 years and kindergarten
Creation Academy: 6:1, 2 year olds; 10:1, 3 years; 12:1, 4 years
Discovery Corner: 4:1, infants; 6:1, toddlers; 10:1, juniors and preschool; 12:1, pre-K
Friends Academy of Westampton: 10:1, preschool; 12:1, pre-K; 15:1, kindergarten
Goddard School: Maximum of 4:1, infants; 6:1, toddlers; 10:1, preschool and pre-K
Haddonfield Friends: 6:1, 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 year olds; 7:1, 3 1/2 to 4 1/2; 8:1, 4 1/2 to 5 1/2
Just Children: 4:1, infants and toddlers; 6:1, 2 year olds and young 3s; 10:1, preschool/pre-K; 12:1, kindergarten
Malvern School: 4:1, infants; 6:1, toddlers; 10:1, preschool; 10:1, pre-K
Moorestown Children’s School: 4:1, infants; 6:1, toddlers and 2s; 9:1, 2 1/2 to 4; 12:1, 4 and up
Montessori Child Development Center: 15:2 for all ages
Friends School of Mullica Hill: 8:1 max for preschool
The Learning Experience: 4:1, infants; 5:1, toddlers; 6:1, twaddlers; 8:1, preppers; 10:1, preschool; 12:1, preschool 2
Naudain Academy: 5:1, 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 year olds; 9:1, 2 1/2 to 4 years; 11:1, 4 years; 7:1, kindergarten
Rancocas Friends School: 5:1
Sari Isdaner: 4:1, under 18 months; 6:1, 18 months to 2 1/2 year olds; 10:1, 2 1/2 to 4; 12:1, 4 years; 15:1, 5 and up
Temple Emanuel: 4:1, 2 year olds; 6:1, 3 years; 7:1, 4 years

Published (and copyrighted) in Suburban Family Magazine, Volume 4, Issue 12 (February, 2014).
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