Having a childcare center inside the WAC comforts youngsters and parents alike with warm hospitality and care
By Heidi Schuessler
Think of it as an added layer of insulation. Having a childcare center inside the WAC comforts youngsters and parents alike with warm hospitality and care. But the added buffer of the Club offers a far greater benefit. As a parent and member, you already belong to, trust and know the WAC. At WeeWACs you send your kids to a place you’ve already given a “certificate of approval,” and that’s unique to Seattle daycare.
When Heather Simmonsen’s son Zack was 6 months old, she had a nanny crisis. In a pinch, she called WeeWACs , the club’s daycare program, to see if they could take him for “just a few weeks,” she recalls. That was three years ago, and Zack has been a regular at WeeWACs ever since. “He just loves it there,” she says. “We only keep him home when he’s sick, and when he feels just a teensy bit better he says, ‘Can I go to WeeWACs now?’”
Now in its 27th year, WeeWACs is one of the many benefits of being a member of the club. The program welcomes children birth to 6 years old for drop-in daycare, monthly Parents Night Out events and summer day camps.
“I like WeeWACs to be the same experience of any high-quality preschool program,” says Shawn Shaffer, Director of Childcare Services at the WAC for seven years. “We just have to do it in shorter bursts.” As a drop-in program, they usually don’t see the same kids all day every day, so instead they focus on educational blocks. Reading, guided play, singing, dancing, sports and art are all on the agenda—even picking up messes. “Thanks to WeeWACs, Zack gets all excited about cleaning,” says Heather.
Robert Bergquist seconds that. His two-year-old son, Amani, has been at WeeWACs for the last five months. “What the teachers do very much supports the goals we try to instill at home,” he says, such as cleaning up after you’re finished playing and saying “please” and “thank you.”
While the teachers plan lots of activities, the program is flexible and takes the children’s interests to heart. “They’ve got a great balance between structured and impromptu play,” says Robert. “They are not just babysitters. They are extremely professional and really focus on child development.”
That’s one of the reasons Robert chose WeeWACs to be Amani’s primary daycare. “At first we thought about WeeWACs as a convenience as we were working out or at meetings downtown,” he says. “But then we were impressed by how happy he was there and how excited he was about going.”
With a 4:1 child to adult ratio, each child gets a lot of attention from the teachers. (The state average for this age group is about 10 to 1.) The mix of male and female teachers is also a big draw, for parents and kids alike. “It’s really nice that they have male teachers as role models, especially for the boys,” says Heather. “I think Zack is more social because of WeeWACs; it’s given him a lot of confidence.”
Robert says that Amani actually refers to WeeWACs as “Bhakti-Kyle,” the names of the two male teachers that he loves to roughhouse and play with. “He wakes up in the morning, sees his Elmo lunchbox and says ‘Bhakti-Kyle, Bhakti -Kyle,’” says Robert.
One of the program’s more popular activities is Parents Night Out, which takes place the third Saturday of every month. Children are invited to the WAC between 5:30 and 10:30 pm, and they get a full evening of fun. It starts with dinner, followed by a special event, such as karaoke or making paper airplanes and then throwing them off the running track to see how far they go. “I wish they had it more than once a month,” says Heather, who is as big a fan of PNO as Zack is. “We know that he’s really taken care of.”
From June to August, WeeWACs also expands to include mini-camps for kids, half-day programs such as Art Camp, Cooking Camp, Movie Camp or Soccer Camp. Parents should keep an eye out for schedules and signups in the WAC Magazine event calendar.
WeeWACs serves between 80 and 140 kids a month, and includes children of members—as well as members’ friends and family. The cost is $10 an hour for children 1 year and older, and $11 for infants. To schedule time at WeeWACs, parents are asked to make reservations ahead of time, even if that’s just one day. “There’s always room,” says Shawn.
Zack and Amani are best buddies thanks to the time they spend together at the Club, and Robert says he gets a kick from seeing his son stroll so comfortably through the doors of the Club. Staff members, like Michael from the Barbershop and Mr. Charles at the front door, know him by name. “It’s like Amani has his own Mister Roger’s neighborhood, and he’s the mayor,” says Robert. “It’s a great way to start and end the day.”
Heidi Schuessler is a freelance writer based in Seattle.