Simplicity, Peace, Integrity, Community, Equality and Stewardship, are the basis of the FCfC curriculum. They guide children toward positive character traits such as kindness, self-regulation, gratitude, fairness, creativity, love of learning, accountability, appreciation of beauty and excellence, empathy, and caring for others. These traits fuel the development of resilience needed to manage everyday stressors, trauma, and toxic stress throughout life. The Quaker values are also a framework that guides staff and families to work together as partners.
The development of the brain and self within the first few years of life is the foundation of lifelong learning and relationships. 85% of the brain develops before the age of 5 (Rauch Foundation). During this time, in addition to creating synapses within our brain, we also develop our sense of self and others.
We believe high-quality early childhood education should be an option for ALL children and families, regardless of their financial status. At Friends Center, families pay based on their income. We have sliding-scale tuition, accept Care4Kids funding, and are a School Readiness and a Child Day Care Grant site. We welcome and encourage all families to apply to Friends Center for Children, regardless of their income.
An emotional wellbeing program is a set of attitudes and practices focused on emotional wellbeing, which has been defined as “A positive sense of wellbeing which enables an individual to be able to function in society and meet the demands of everyday life; people in good mental health have the ability to recover effectively from illness, change or misfortune.” (Mental Health Foundation). An emotional wellbeing program reflects the intention of an organization or institution to support optimal personal and interpersonal functioning for all members of its community. At Friends Center, our Emotional Wellbeing Program is led by a clinical licensed social worker in partnership with a co-coordinator with an MS in human services. Working together with staff and teachers, the coordinators help facilitate awareness and response to the effects of adverse childhood experiences on children, as well as the residual effects of individual and cultural trauma on adults in the community. Specific aspects of our program include teaching social/emotional intelligence, social problem-solving, nonviolent communication, and strength-based strategies for addressing challenges.
At Friends Center, 88% of our families pay on a sliding-scale, with tuition adjusted based on annual gross income and family size. Currently, tuition is $22,000 per year for the Infant/Toddler program and $16,995 per year for the Preschool program. Friends Center is committed to ensuring that our program is financially accessible to each family, and numerous funding sources help make that possible, including the School Readiness Program, Care4Kids, New Haven Day Care and generous supporters of our financial aid program.
At Friends Center, we understand that play is a child’s work. We are committed to providing abundant outdoor play and learning time, and ensure that every child goes outside twice a day, everyday, whether rain, shine, snow or wind. As long as the weather’s safe (within the State Guidelines for safety), children have hours of opportunity to run, jump, climb, balance, chase, dig, lift, explore and cultivate wonder about the world around them. Not only is outdoor play fun, it also helps children develop and keeps them healthy. Research indicates that children remain healthier throughout the winter months when they maintain regular time outdoors, where germs are less likely to spread. Likewise, moving and playing in an outdoor space, children develop their large muscles, core strength and overall fitness. Even fine muscle development progresses as children collect acorns, create sandbox cities, or wield their creativity with paint on our outdoor easels. At Friends Center, our outdoor learning spaces are an extension of the classroom environment, and contain similar elements as the indoor spaces, including areas dedicated to quiet reading, blocks and manipulative exploration, scientific inquiry, dramatic play, and big body movement. As children freely explore these areas, teachers observe their activities and interests. This information guides the development for our emergent curriculum, where learning plans are developed based on the children’s skills and curiosities.
Featuring cheerios, bananas, apples, yogurt, milk and more, Friends Center provides a balanced morning and afternoon snack consisting of a grain, dairy, and fruit. Families pack their children’s lunches, which may include microwavable items. For food insecure families, extra lunches are available through our lunch co-op program. The program allows families to sign up for lunch as part of their co-op responsibilities. They then pack an extra lunch for a family in need, which is given anonymously to protect privacy. All snacks and lunches at Friends Center are nut free, as we maintain a nut-free facility for the safety of all our children.
At Friends Center, we believe in community and work to build relationships and connections between our families through annual events such as our curriculum night, pizza party and Family Stroll. As relationships develop, we hope that families reach out and support one another as they feel comfortable.
Friends Center is open from 8am-5pm for our Infant/Toddler Pods (under 3 years of age) and from 7:30-5:30 for our Preschool Program (3-5 yrs old).
Because we are a community of diverse backgrounds, cultures and traditions, Friends Center does not observe or teach holidays in the classroom. However, we welcome and appreciate hearing about your family's traditions and celebrations that occur outside of the Center. For birthdays, we will celebrate, at a family's request, with a healthy snack or favorite book.
Friends Center staff are dedicated, compassionate and professional, and, as such, often a top choice for families looking for babysitters. Friends Center staff are allowed to babysit for children who are not in their direct care on a daily basis at the Center. To assist families, we have a list of staff who wish to be contacted for babysitting each year. This list includes their rates and contact information. Staff are not permitted to attend personal family events outside of school.
Through play, children learn how to interact with one another. Valuable lessons take shape, such as learning how to share toys and materials, developing patience through waiting and turn-taking, navigating social interactions, developing skills for teamwork, understanding appropriate boundaries, as well as understanding and communicating emotions that arise during playful interactions. Learning through play takes on different forms as children develop. Infants explore their physical and social world through their senses. Adults can facilitate learning through play by providing infants with opportunities to see, touch, taste and smell a variety of phenomena. Likewise, interaction games, such as give-and-take and peek-a-boo with loving, responsive adults help infants learn to interact socially. At the toddler stage, play can help children cope with strong emotions which they may not be able to understand yet. By acting out emotion-laden scenes in their play, such as reassuring a doll that mommy will return, toddlers learn to cope with feelings and gain the self-control that will propel them to the next stage of development. As children enter the preschool and kindergarten years, they begin to explore the world through indirect experiences such as stories, pictures, and television programs. Information gained in this way becomes the basis for imaginative play which takes children beyond the here and now. At this stage, play activities such as drawing, building with blocks, dance, music, and crafts help children expand their knowledge and understanding of the world, while developing eye-hand coordination and other motor skills. Children also become increasingly focused on peers at this stage. They benefit from play activities, props, and toys that encourage them to interact with others and engage in 'dramatic' make-believe play.
For a child, trauma can range from more common adverse experiences such as divorce or losses or more severe cases of addiction or abuse. As a trauma-informed program, Friends Center understands the impact of trauma and intense stress on physical, cognitive, emotional and social development. Children who have experienced excessive fear and anxiety are more likely to develop health and mental health problems later in life. Being trauma-informed means intentionally creating an environment of physical, emotional and social safety for children, families and staff. For families, this entails providing support and resources to address current and recurring hardships. For staff members, we encourage them to express their needs and develop their own self-care so that they can thrive and be responsive to the children in their care. To help children relieve the effects of trauma, we provide ways to enhance their strengths while learning to manage their emotions. This understanding is embedded in our curriculum, practices and relationships. Strategies that support all children, and especially children affected by trauma, include:
- building sensory and body awareness utilizing movement, music, yoga, etc.
- tuning in to a child’s way of expressing distress
- providing comfort empathy, and problem-solving coaching at an age-appropriate level
- modeling and teaching the use of breath to soothe a hyper-aroused nervous system
- developing emotional literacy to learn to self-regulate and understand others
- utilizing children’s literature to reflect on coping with challenges
- creating visual cues and a room design that support a predictable and safe learning environment
- seeing challenging behavior through the lens of: “What need is being expressed?”
- engaging families in all aspects of the program
- individualizing children’s goals and strategies to meet need
- empowering families to utilize supports in the community
At Friends Center, we prioritize knowing the concerns of family members and working towards meeting a child’s needs within the classroom. However, sometimes, due to trauma or developmental concerns, children benefit from additional resources. Teachers work with emotional wellbeing coordinators and learning consultants to help consider additional supports that an individual child may need outside of the Center. The coordinators will help parents locate and access community resources when requested, and will work with families to assure that a satisfying connection is made.