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King George getting new day care option


ASHLEY ESMACHER and Katy Wheeler

noticed the lack of licensed day care when they and their families moved to King George County.

So the two moms, both of whom have backgrounds in early childhood development, decided to fill the niche. They expect to open their new day care business, Kid’s Cottage LLC, by Sept. 4 in the former location of Tri-County Carpet at 10057 Kings Highway.

“People see our sign and see that we’re in a strip mall, but when they walk in and see the playground, they’re pleasantly surprised,” Esmacher said.

Kid’s Cottage’s classrooms are inviting as well, with brightly painted walls, child-size furniture, educational toys and colorful rugs decorated with letters or numbers.

The day care center will accept children as young as six weeks, and will take up to eight when running at full capacity. They’ll also accept up to 10 toddlers, 10 two-year-olds and 14 preschoolers.

“We are the only center accepting infants on our side of the county,” said Esmacher, “and the day cares in Dahlgren have long waiting lists.”

She and Wheeler would eventually like to offer before- and after-school programs for older children, but would have to move to a larger space in order to accommodate the additional enrollment.

The two moms started talking about their shared interest in opening a day care last October, and began planning in earnest in January. They spent months researching the best curriculum to use, for example, and settled on KidCrafters’ program of theme-based, hands-on activities. It’s used worldwide to help preschoolers get ready for kindergarten.

“We won’t go on field trips, but we are looking into have things like a petting zoo or the Bug Box in Spotsylvania [County] come here,” Esmacher said. “It will be like a field trip coming to them.”

Kid’s Cottage also will have monthly birthday parties for all the children celebrating their birthday during that time period.

“We’ve had a lot of calls from parents. Social Services has been sending people who want tours, and we’ve had lots of contacts through our website,” Esmacher said. “We have only a few spots left.”

Esmacher and Wheeler will be the day care center’s directors, and will have an eight-member staff.

“We’ll basically know how to do everything, and can take over a class if need be,” Esmacher said.

A graduate of George Washington University, she has taken classes in early childhood education and worked in several child care facilities. Currently, she does freelance work for Clearday Staffing, a King George firm that supplies hospitals and other health care facilities nationwide with temporary help and candidates for permanent positions.

Wheeler earned a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education at Ohio University, and was a kindergarten teacher at Washington District Elementary School in Colonial Beach for five years.

Both women have young children.

Cathy Jett: 540/374-5407