Finding child care can be tough. You worry about selecting the right place. You wonder if the staff will love and care for your little one the way you do. You research the program to determine if there are opportunities for learning and socialization. Is your child going to like it? Are the teachers going to work with you and be approachable? Is there flexibility, because kids are unpredictable and you definitely need flexibility. Will you connect with other families? Is it affordable?
When my son was 16 months old, I made the decision to leave the traditional workplace and start Columbia SC Moms Blog. This came from a desire to be a stay-at-home mom AND a work-from-home mom – someone who could spend my days enjoying raising my son while also having a job I was passionate about that provided flexibility. What I quickly found out was that while this was an incredible opportunity for me to have the best of both worlds, it also created a lot of long hours, late nights, and a struggle to find balance between being a good mom and good business owner.
Something had to give.
That’s when I begin looking online and talking with friends about what options they were using when they needed a few hours in the day to take care of the things outside of motherhood. Over and over I heard recommendations for St. Martin’s Drop-In Nursery and knew I had to check it out.
It was EXACTLY what I needed … and so much more! Here are five reasons my family loves St. Martin’s and you will too!
Flexible Hours and Custom Infant Schedules
One of my very favorite things about St. Martin’s is it’s a drop-in program, which means your child can “drop-in” for child care whenever you need it. I didn’t want to enroll my son in full-time daycare, because I didn’t need something Monday through Friday, forty hours a week. I wanted something I could utilize when I needed a two hour block of time to meet with a client or schedule a doctor’s appointment without a little one tugging on my sleeve. I wanted something I could rely on when I needed a morning to myself to run errands, go to the grocery store, get that much needed hair cut, or squeeze in some dedicated work time when I had a deadline looming.
Because St. Martin’s is open Monday through Friday, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., it’s the perfect amount of time to take care of all these things. And it’s not just for stay-at-home parents who want a morning off. Many parents who enroll their children work full-time and have a trusted sitter or grandparent pick them up. What’s great about this option is it offers children a morning of fun, socialization and learning new things with others their age, while also allowing downtime in the afternoon for playing at home or visiting the many kid-friendly attractions around town.
As a work-from-home mom, I enjoy the opportunity to take my computer on-the-go for a change of pace and scenery. Often times, I’ll drop my son off and head to the Starbucks in Trenholm Plaza or inside Barnes and Noble and power through the work responsibilities for the day. Plus, coffee.
For those with infants, St. Martin’s follows YOUR baby’s schedule. Parents write down when they want their baby to get bottles and a nap, and the teachers stick to it. You don’t have to worry about coming back to an overly tired baby or spending days trying to get your little one back into the daily routine you follow at home.
On-the-Spot Child Care Charged Hourly
St. Martin’s offers an hourly rate, so you only pay for the time your child is there. No weekly fees. No worrying about having x amount of monthly tuition set aside (which, let’s face it, can sometimes be more than your car payment). And it’s AFFORDABLE. I guarantee it’s less than your babysitter’s rate, with a lot more advantages.
Some months I only took my son one day. Other months I took him almost daily. Sometimes I only needed them to watch him for an hour. Other times I needed the entire 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. time frame. It’s completely based on your needs. Just keep in mind classes fill up on a first-come, first-serve basis, so if it’s a day you REALLY need child care (like a business meeting or doctor’s appointment), you’ll want to do your best to get there close to open time to ensure there is space for your child.
And one of the best parts is, they bill you for your time at the end of the month! So you don’t have to fumble around with cash or make sure you have your checkbook handy each time you take your child. Motherhood made easier!
Non-Curricular Learning Opportunities & Fun
One thing I particularly love is it’s more than just a drop-off program where someone watches your child while they play. While it is a non-curricular program, they do provide learning opportunities and activities. The infants and young toddlers take buggy rides outside to get fresh air and sing songs by the fountain. In the older classes, they focus on a letter each week and work on activities related to that letter. My son would come home from St. Martin’s with artwork and crafts, raving about the fun he had. Each Friday he would look forward to show-and-tell with the letter of the week. This activity is a great way to build on the alphabet skills he learned, as we spent time picking out toys in his room and sounding out which letter they started with. When we started kindergarten this fall, he was so prepared!
There are also fun activities like music class for all ages and making fun snacks together for the older kids (which are all included at no extra charge). Often times, there are special visits from places like the local fire station, police officers, dentist office, as well as festive activities like an Easter Egg hunt and 4th of July parade around the school.
Friendly, Caring and Invested Staff
I can’t say enough great things about the folks who work here. From the moment you walk in the door, you are often personally greeted and welcomed by the director, Kathy Lentz. On our first day, she immediately recognized me and my son, calling us by name amongst all the families there. What a great feeling to know they knew us on a personal level from day one.
The teachers are the same way. They welcome you in the classroom and help your child get settled. At pickup, they tell you about the activities they did and how your child’s day was. Have questions? They don’t mind chatting with you. Any concerns? They are quick to address them and work with you on a solution. Struggling with issues at home? They are happy to help reinforce positive behaviors so you are parenting together on the same page while mom and dad are away.
Kids Love It
And I’m not just speaking for myself here. Not only would my son ASK to go, but so would his friends in his class! Over time, I made some great mom friends here, and we would meet up for play dates and talk outside of class. I can remember comparing notes with them several times and commenting how when we all gave our kids options of things to do that day, they would always pick St. Martin’s! How refreshing it is to know your child is in a program not just because mom needs some time to tend to her needs, but because your little one genuinely wants to be there. This, in itself, speaks volumes.
Try It For Your Family!
If you have children ages eight weeks through four years and are in need of on-the-spot child care, I highly recommend St. Martin’s Drop-In Nursery. Established in 1972 to serve as an outreach ministry for the greater Columbia community, the Drop-In Nursery has been recognized twice by Palmetto Parent Magazine as the best Drop-In in the community.
The nursery is directed year-round by Kathy Lentz, who has overseen this St. Martin’s ministry for the past 25 years, and is located at 5220 Clemson Ave., Columbia, SC 29206 (near Trader Joe’s). For more information about the St. Martin’s Drop-In Nursery, contact Kathy by email or phone at (803) 787-6406. She, and all the staff at St. Martin’s, are happy to answer all your questions and welcome you into a flexible and loving environment for all your child care needs.