Children connect at Dot’s

Published 12:17 am Sunday, September 25, 2011

ERIC SHELTON | THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT Dorothy Winters has opened Dot’s Play and Learn Childcare to prepare children for kindergarten and beyond. The facility, at top, is located in Broadmoor subdivision.

NATCHEZ — Dorothy Winters is in the business of preparing children to be overachievers in school and life, and to give the area’s working parents a hand too.

Children ages 6 weeks to 12 years old have a place at Dot’s Play and Learn Childcare, located in the Broadmoor subdivision at 126 Crown Court in Natchez.

Winters, owner and director of the center, said there is a need for more affordable childcare in the community.

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“There are so many kids, and Head Start can only take so many,” Winters said.

Jamez Turner, left, and Devin Bailey laugh while watching an educational film at Dot’s Play and Learn Childcare Thursday afternoon.

Winters directed the daycare in the basement of Brumfield Apartments in Natchez from October 2010 until February, when the apartments were closed and tenants had to leave. After the closing, Winters immediately went to work scouting locations for the business she was committed to nurturing.

In her searching, Winters said she heard the Rev. Oscar Davis owned the building — which used to be Greater Faith Childcare.

“We met, talked, and I moved into the building in May,” Winters said.

Winters said the facility was licensed by the state to operate as a daycare in June. Fifteen children are currently enrolled at Dot’s — 10 toddlers and five after-school program participants. Winters said she is licensed to care for up to 50 children. With only one employee, Winters said she is poised to grow by welcoming more children and adding additional staff.

Winters, standing in the brightly-painted spaces surrounded by cubbies, colorful carpets, dress up stations and petite tables, had tears in her eyes when she said the new center has been a long time coming.

“It was so hard at first to let people know that I’m here,” Winters said. “And now I have the best parents in the world.”

After-school program participants have their own space in the building, equipped with computers, learning resources and a quiet place to work on school assignments.

“If they have homework when they get here, it’s done when they leave,” Winters said. “That’s my biggest goal in owning my own daycare — making sure (children) are fundamentally ready for school.”

While the daycare promotes play, Winters said she also focuses on discipline.

The childcare center is located in the Broadmoor Subdivision on Crown Court.

“When they go to school, they will have to sit down and listen in class,” Winters said. “So that’s what we try to do here too.”

D’Antwanette Felder has two children, ages 7 and 2, who spend time at Dot’s when Felder is at work. Felder, a working mom, said she noticed a positive difference in her children when they attended daycare, especially the little one.

“In the first three weeks, my 2-year-old was (reciting) everything from colors and numbers, to animal sounds,” Felder said. “But it’s also structured — sitting down and listening.”

Felder said Winters provided her with take-home tools to work on with her youngest son, as he was confusing some colors.

“And she gives a verbal progress report — what did they go over, what did they eat, how did they sleep, did they have an accident,” Felder said. “It’s been a very good experience. I like how she teaches, and her passion for teaching.”

Winters said she has enjoyed working with young people since being employed by Southern Christian Services near Greenwood — a facility for abused children under the custody of the Department of Human Services, and Methodist Children’s Home in __. She has also worked as a substitute teacher in Natchez-Adams County Schools.

Weekly rates are $90 for ages 12 months and up, $100 for infants and $55 for the after-school program. Winters said the daycare does accept Southwest vouchers. Children are served breakfast, lunch and two snacks daily. The facility is open from 6:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

The Mississippi Department of Health gave the facility an A rating, and Winters said the “star rating” process by the Mississippi Forum for Children and Families is underway, which ranks daycares.

“My hope for these kids is for them to be able to go to kindergarten and first grade and be advanced, keeping up with the curriculum waiting for them,” Winters said.

To achieve this, Winters said they focus on counting, reading and writing.

“This is not just a daycare,” Winters said. “We are focused on education.”

For more information, call Winters at 601-431-1314.