This is the third in a series of introductions to the children’s day care and learning centers located in the area.
Visited this week is Sunny Days Children’s Day Care and Learning Center, located in Vandalia. Sharon Reavis and Shannon Chrisman co-planned, own and operate the smaller daycare, which has what they describe as, “the grandma factor.”
How Sunny Days
Shannon Chrisman had worked in the medical transcriptions department in Greenville Hospital for years when she began having carpel tunnel problems and wanted to do something else.
Also, Shannon said, “I took my little girl, Chalie, to daycare a couple of days a week, because that is what she wanted to do and I was kind of jealous, because I wanted to stay and play. I just really enjoy kids."
Sharon said, “I was a stay-at-home-grandma for eight years, and than all of a sudden,” and Shannon finished the sentence, “Chalie’s brother, Kriston went to school, so Chalie wanted to go to school. So I took her somewhere for a couple of days a week and that was it, so she could go to school.
“Then she got into KRP for preschool, and they were always doing things and having fun,” Shannon said.
“I thought, that sounds like fun, and the idea just kind of bloomed from there.”
So Shannon went to her mother, Sharon, with a rather surprising proposal, for both of them to go back to school.
Sharon said, “She came to me and said, ‘I’ve got a good idea – let’s go back to school, so we can have our own daycare’ and I said, ‘What?’”
So they went back to school for the proper courses, met the necessary requirements, completed the required paperwork, etc., and opened the doors for the kids on May 23, 2005, and both still love it. The doors are open Monday through Friday, from 6:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., for children ages 6 weeks-12 years.
The building is small …
… and that is the way they want to keep it. When asked why didn’t they build on and expand it, they answer that they like the smaller building, because it seems to foster a closer relationship with the kids.
“We like knowing what their favorite ice cream is, what their middle name is, and a lot of the kids who have been here, we’ve had them all through the baby room, the toddler room and preschool room and are off to school now,” Shannon said.
“And we also have their siblings. We appreciate the parents sharing their children with us. “
The interior is open, with only approximately 4-foot walls sectioning off the play and work areas. The number of children present throughout the day varies, because of different schedules of parents, and a school bus transports the school age children from and back to Sunny Days.
Their activities schedule is flexible.
“Instead of having things in concrete, we have to be adaptable. As we know the individual children, their personalities, etc., that’s how we arrange our day and our curriculum,” Shannon said.
“We go for a walk, go to the park, play ball. Sometimes we break down and watch TV, but not much TV,” she said.
They have a fenced-in area with playground equipment.
It is a cheery and colorful atmosphere, with much of the children’s art work decorating the walls and hallway. The smaller ones have their own convenient table, just off the kitchen, which the staff compares to a table in a restaurant where the men coffee drinkers sit and tell tales.
The Summertime …
…is busy. “There are challenges when our school-age children are out of school,” Sharon said.
“We have such a full curriculum. I become the chauffer then,” Sharon said. “We make field trips to the library, the swimming pool, the beach … giving them a chance to get out, play and interact.”
The ‘Grandma Factor’
While the physical aspect of Sunny Days is cheery and lends itself to fun activities and playing, there is also the “homey, comfy aura of the “Grandma Factor,” which Sharon and a member of the staff, Colleen Wefer, tend to distribute. Or, as Shannon describes it, “spoiling” the kids.
Sharon’s duties are mainly administrative, but she said she “floats around, runs errands, etc., and … spoils the kids.
“I can remember the day when we met with the DCFS lady and we were covering a lot of information about the rules and regulations of child care. I said, ‘OK, and then we have “grandma rules,” Sharon said.
“Our most important thing is safety, then nurturing,“ Shannon said.
“The parents want someplace to take their children when they can’t be with them, and we want to make sure that we are giving them that loving, caring, nurturing environment that they would want their children to be in,” Sharon added.
“And because we are small, the children, the staff, us and the parents are like a big family,” she said.
A Surprise Added Benefit
With the arrival of Nikki Jo, Shannon’s daughter, four years ago, “Grandma” and “Mom” dropped the infant age down to 6 weeks, from 15 months.
“I didn’t anticipate having another baby, but when I had Nikki Jo, she got to come to come to work with me,” Shannon said.
“She was our surprise baby,” Sharon added.
The day care, Sunny Day Child Care and Learning Center, was actually named for a bright sunny day. Shannon remarked, “Who doesn’t love a sunny day?” Sharon and Shannon looked at one another and knew that was the perfect name they were looking for … and an appropriate name for the happy little day care, inspired by the love of a mother for her children.