Carol Matheys Center for Children and Families: a local tradition

After 45 years of high-quality childcare, Carol Matheys Center for Children and Families in Oakdale continues to provide a fun-filled learning experience for children.

"Our program has a good balance," says Executive Director Stacie Penn. As the children grow, they learn as they play.

Plans are currently underway to celebrate the center's 45th anniversary May 14 with a fundraising Spring Soirée. According to Penn, the event will include a silent auction, along with a beer and wine tasting for those 21 years of age and older. This fundraiser helps the 501(c)3 nonprofit child center with education programs and scholarships for families in need.

The public and alumni are also invited to the annual family picnic May 29. There will be food, games, a petting zoo and time for folks to visit.

Carol Matheys has a long tradition of being involved with the community, including membership in the Oakdale Area Chamber of Commerce, formerly OBPA. Connection to the community is part of the center's broader focus on the family and community around children. "Our center also provides programs that support learning and encouragement to children and their parents," Penn explains.

With a history this lengthy, it's not surprising to see former students bring their children to Carol Matheys for care — or to find some have returned to the center as staff.

Assistant Director Jodi Haas recalls highlights of her days at Carol Matheys 34 years ago.

"I enjoyed my preschool and fondly remember celebrating a birthday here while wearing a crown. That day sticks out the most," she says.

Although programs may have changed over the years, she says the philosophy has stayed the same — focusing on the individual child.

Carol Matheys has a four-star Parent Aware rating, the highest stamp of approval the state gives, Penn explains.

The fully-licensed center has a low teacher-to-child ratio, a definite advantage for the nearly 70 children who are enrolled. All of the teachers have education in early childhood, and many have been with the center for more than 10 years. In addition, all staff are trained in first aid and CPR.

Last year, a grant from the Washington County Watershed District funded installation of a rain garden, which has enriched the center's nature curriculum. Soon, the children will plant and nurture their annual garden of carrots, potatoes, squash, pumpkin and tomatoes. The little ones will learn and grow as their vegetables sprout and flourish.

In addition to outside play, fresh air and exercise, the center’s curriculum includes math, pre-reading, music and science to help prepare children for school.

Nutritious meals and snacks served during the day follow the USDA food program guidelines. And, every year, a new crop of surprised and delighted parents find their children have learned to pass food, serve themselves and carry on a conversation at the table during the day.

"Social skills are as important as learning, and fostering social development is part of the curriculum," Penn explains.

Carol Matheys Center for Children and Families meets the needs of the "older kids," but what about "wee ones?" Not to worry — Carol Matheys also operates a childcare center for children as young as six weeks old to three, called Treasured Tykes, in nearby North St. Paul.

While the staff and children are busy and looking forward to the 45th anniversary celebration, Penn encourages parents to plan ahead.

"We are currently enrolling for summer day camp and next year preschool," she says.

Fast Facts

• Celebrating 45-year anniversary
• Care for infants to toddlers and preschool to school age — a range from 6 weeks to 5th grade
• Open Monday-Friday, 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.
• Now enrolling!

Carol Matheys Center for Children and Families
Century Avenue & 43rd St., Oakdale

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