New day care provides a ‘spark to learn’

By Sara Bruestle | Sep 25, 2013
Photo by: Sara Bruestle Jessa Thayer, director of the new ABC Learning Center in Mukilteo, looks through the tree play structure in the center's Pre-School Room. The center opened on Sept. 23.

At the center of the Pre-School Room in the new ABC Learning Center in Mukilteo stands a play structure shaped like a tree. It has a tunnel through its trunk to inspire children to crawl inside.

“When I look at this tree I think of a child going inside there and reading a book and just losing themselves in their imagination,” said Jessa Thayer, director of the center. “I think that’s just so important.”

The tree serves as a metaphor for the day care: This is where children come to learn and grow.

ABC Learning Center opened its doors on Monday, at 8601 Mukilteo Speedway, Ste. 502. A grand opening is scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 28.

The center cares for and teaches children ages newborn to 6 in four classrooms: infant, toddler, preschool and pre-k.

Programs are designed so that children learn at age-appropriate levels. Teachers are certified and individualize the programs to meet each child’s needs.

“The main point is that we’re providing an environment where kids have the spark to learn, to grow and succeed in life, to make them feel very comfortable, very safe,” owner Abbas Alnahi said. “We want to make them feel at home.”

The Infant Room has cribs and open play spaces that allow for babies to learn to crawl and walk unhindered.

“Teachers are encouraged to sit on the floor with the children and be active in their play,” Thayer said.

The teacher-to-infant ratio in the room is 1:4, with a max of eight children. Ages are birth to 12 months.

The Toddler Room has an activity space where children can run, jump and climb, and also a quiet space for role playing and reading books. There are also cots for nap time.

The teacher-to-toddler ratio in this room is 1:6, with a max of 12 children allowed. Ages are 12 months to 30 months.

Toddlers have group and independent play; learn their shapes, colors, numbers and letters; and practice skills like zipping up their jackets and washing their hands.

The Pre-School Room features several learning stations for exploring the senses, working on gross/fine motor skills, reading and active play.

Pre-schoolers practice self-serving their meals, cleaning up, making their beds, tying their shoes; they learn how to play cooperatively, problem solve; and work on their hand-eye coordination as well as cutting and writing skills.

The room has a 1:10 teacher-to-student ratio, with a max of 20 children. Ages are 30 months to 4 1/2 years.

The Pre-K Room, which also houses a before and after school kindergarten program, ages 5-6, focuses on a teacher directive curriculum where students are challenged to problem solve and learn literacy, math and science.

Pre-K kids learn how to write their names, count from 1-20, compare and classify objects and other skills necessary to prepare them for kindergarten.

Children who are in kindergarten already get homework help and teacher-parent conferences.

The Pre-K/Kindergarten Room has a 1:10 teacher-to-student ratio, with a max of 10 children. Ages are 4 1/2 to 6 years.

Alnahi said the center will work with the Mukilteo School District to make sure children in their programs are meeting teachers’ expectations for kindergarten.

His youngest son, age 5, recently graduated from the ABC Learning Center and is now in kindergarten at Beverly Elementary.

He said his son’s teacher was very impressed with his ability to count to 10 in English and Spanish, write his name and do basic math. She suggested his child enroll in the gifted program.

“I was very happy because he graduated from my school,” Alnahi said. “That tells me we are doing our job.”

ABC Learning Center first opened in Lynnwood in 2010. The Mukilteo center is its second location.

Thayer and Alnahi said they decided on Mukilteo because of how “green” the space is – it has lots of windows for natural lighting and plants.

Thayer said their center follows schedules – but not to the point where kids stop their learning.

“We don’t ever want to discourage a child from learning because it’s time to eat or time to go outside,” Thayer said. “Whatever they’re focused on or fixated with, we want to encourage that child to be able to go back to that and keep that interest going.”

Breakfast, lunch and snacks are provided. A playground gives children an opportunity to continue their play outside. Nap times are scheduled but not forced.

A grand opening is scheduled for 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sept. 28. Meet the staff and their children. Refreshments will be provided.

ABC Learning Center is open 5:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday-Friday. Discounts and scholarships are available. There are no caps on state assistance. Drop-ins are welcome.

Call 425-265-1300, email or go to for more information.

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