Jenny Welsch and Shelly Gladowski grew up together in Grosse Ile and went to college to work in the childcare field; Welsch attended the University of Michigan, and Gladowski attended Michigan State University and Eastern Michigan University. One day, while at a local bowling alley, they proposed an idea to open a quality daycare center. Roughly 14 years ago, Welsch and Gladowski started the .
Animal Crackers is licensed as a preschool and daycare by the state of Michigan. Welsch and Gladowski, known as Miss Jenny and Miss Shelly, respectively, are licensed directors and lead teachers of the three-year-old and four-year-old preschool classes. The daycare staff is CPR- and First Aid-certified, and most staff members have their Child Development Associate credentials.
Prior to being a daycare learning center, the building housed a bookstore and an architect’s office. After the bookstore was destroyed in a fire and the architect passed away, the separate businesses were restored and renovated into one business with several separate rooms.
In the infants area, which includes separate play and crib rooms, trained staff members care for children up to 12 months old. The toddlers area is separated into two rooms; one room is for children up to two years old, while the other is for children up to three years old. Other rooms at the daycare are geared toward preschool and kindergarten learning for three- and four-year-old children.
Staff members teach numbers, colors, shapes, spelling, the alphabet, Spanish and French, just to name a few. Children are also taught motor skills and manners.
In addition to preschool programs and classes, the center offers Tumblebus and Dance Grosse Ile classes.
Animal Crackers, which oversees about 90 children on a daily basis, is a family-run and family-orientated business.
Welsch’s parents own the building, and her mother ran the business until her retirement last year. Since then, Welsch has taken over business operations. Additionally, Gladowski’s cousin is one of the business’ 23 staff members.
Despite the poor economy and a previously short decline in enrollment, Welsch said daycare enrollment has recently picked back up. She also said that the poor economy has brought about more scheduling requests for children.
Welsch said that what sets Animal Crackers apart from other learning centers is the care and the loyalty from the staff members; some employees have been there since the business first opened in 1997.
The best parts of their jobs, according to Welsch and Gladowski, are being a part of the children’s lives and having every day be new, different and fun.
Animal Crackers is open Monday through Friday, from 6:30 a.m. until 6 p.m. Animal Crackers is located on 124 Elm St., on the corner of Elm Street and West Jefferson Avenue.
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