Tot Drop Preschool Takes A Different Approach to Childcare

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(Ruth Kaiser, Photographer)
The Tot Drop Preschool has been around for more than 20 years and will be reopening in the near future for in-person classes.

    As a preschool teacher in the ‘90s, Orinda resident Ruth Kaiser started to question how the schools at which she taught were run.
   She would see parents stay outside the night before registration, waiting to secure a spot for their child. But when Kaiser would teach, there would often be empty seats in her classroom, seats school policy did not allow her to fill.
   Kaiser sees separation as a big issue for children, yet, she observed young students were often immediately put into classrooms for hours on end, giving them little time to adjust to new surroundings, a recipe according to Kaiser “for tears and anxiety.”
   “We need to rethink the whole idea of young children separating from their parents. It truly is the bravest thing most will have done in their entire short lives,” Kaiser said.
   With all of this in mind, she created Tot Drop Preschool in 1994, an on-demand classroom, meaning parents choose the hours they want their child to attend.
   At one point, there were seven Tot Drop locations across the Bay Area. Now, after choosing to downsize for personal reasons, Kaiser and her fellow teachers help run the original preschool site out of the Lafayette Community Center.
   Beyond letting parents decide their child’s schedule, Tot Drop Preschool is a multi-age environment, accepting kids ages one to four, something Kaiser believes is a strength of her program.
   “It’s really quite loving to see when you put kids of different ages together. When they are all the same age together, they are kind of looking around and comparing themselves to their peers – there is almost a built-in competition,” Kaiser said. “It goes away in a multi-age program.”
   Students are engaged with different forms of curriculum, including art and other activities to challenge them intellectually, she noted. And if parents want to stay with their child and observe how the child is doing, teachers at Tot Drop encourage them to do so.
   “It’s really cool that they are all coexisting together, kind of like a family. Whenever I dropped in, nobody was being ignored; they were all being taken care of,” said Amy Humann, a parent whose child attends the preschool.
   Tot Drop Preschool will reopen in the near future based on COVID-19 cases in Contra Costa County, and appointments can be made at www.totdrop.com.
   “We believe kids are developmentally who they are, and that we should bend the school’s rules to make them able to be successful,” Kaiser said about her teaching philosophy. “It’s just a more sympathetic approach.”

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