By Angie Wieck
FARGO—Learn ‘n Move Childcare Center, a new center accepting children ages 18 months to 6 years, will open Wednesday, June 1, in the building home to TNT Kid’s Fitness on Main Avenue.
The center is a nonprofit collaboration between TNT and the Anne Carlsen Center, which provides health care, education and support services to children with special needs.
Eric Monson, CEO of the Anne Carlsen Center, said Learn ‘n Move was established in response to a regional workforce study that found the lack of affordable child care was a roadblock to filling jobs as well as attracting new business. At the time of the study’s release last summer, then United Way President Sher Thomsen said only about 50 percent of this area’s child care need was being met.
“Even if the study was half right, that’s a tremendous number,” Monson said. “We know that in a small way we can respond to that with these 60 new slots.”
A collaborative model
This isn’t the first time the organizations have worked together.
Kim Pladson, executive director of TNT Kid’s Fitness, said she believes the relationship began with local Anne Carlsen School clients participating in TNT’s special needs programs.
“We partner with over 20 agencies that use TNT, so that collaborative model is really what built TNT,” Pladson said. “It’s been a great model because you’re able to share space, share equipment, and not everybody is having to purchase gyms.”
Both organizations also share a belief in the importance of play.
One advantage of Learn ‘n Move will be is its access to Anne Carlsen’s early intervention program. If a parent or day care professional has a concern, a child can be given a developmental assessment. If any delays or problems exist, a program will be developed that helps parents and staff work together to help the child thrive.
One way will be through a new “therapy through play” program called Lekotek that features a lending library of over 3,000 toys.
Monson believes “a child’s job is to play.” Because that isn’t always simple for those with disabilities, the program teaches parents how to play with their children.
“There may be a child with a developmental delay and maybe parents want some instruction on how to utilize some toys for play. That’s specific to the child, but there are general rules as well,” Monson said. “We all need social skills. We all need to learn how to take turns, regardless of where we are in a diverse continuum.”
The professionals at TNT are considered experts in play as well. TNT was tapped by the city of Fargo two years ago to provide fitness training for area child care providers. Pladson said they’ve trained over 1,000 since then through TNT’s mobile movement labs.
Now, rather than visit each individual child care center, they’ll have the option of conducting continuing education classes for providers at Learn ‘n Move.
Pladson said partnering with the Anne Carlsen School to open Learn ‘n Move “just made sense.”
“We just have such a great support system between the two organizations,” she said. “We’re excited about it and looking forward to opening a child care center that has a very high focus on meeting the needs of the child. I think it’s a really holistic approach and I’m excited about that.”
Heidi Uglem, Learn ‘n Move’s director, said while the center is wheelchair accessible and equipped to serve children with physical and behavioral needs, it’s open to all children.
Uglem, a graduate of North Dakota State University’s child development and family science program, took a few years off after working for child care centers here and in Colorado. She is excited to get back to working with kids.
“The more I interviewed, the more I knew how much I wanted to do this,” Uglem said. “Kids have always been my passion.”