Etti Benvenisti began Gan Yaldenu in her home when her son was born and she couldn’t find good daycare. Now she has two locations. A native Israeli with an early childhood education degree, she has incorporated the best of Israeli and American approaches to education for children from infancy until age 5. Gan Yaldenu at 85 Copley Avenue in Teaneck accepts children beginning at age two-and-a-half. Gan Yaldenu at 160 Woodbine Street in Bergenfield also takes infants. Each age group has its own room and teachers, with age appropriate care and activities.
The theme of Gan Yaldenu is learning through play, not learning and play. Part of the learning is through singing and dancing to music and using instruments. The children play games and create their own. Outdoors, they explore and learn to appreciate how things grow and happen. “Gan means garden, not school,” Benvenisti said. “Education should be a nurturing environment, where children develop all the important skills used for the future including socialization and hands on activities.”
Learning is integrated into all activities; it’s not a separate skill. Puppet shows are great for keeping children’s attention while teaching them. And reading develops naturally. “In the early years, we build vocabulary, not literacy,” said Benvenisti. “We go through picture books and say the words. When children hear the sounds and the letters, they become good readers. They will put the words and letters together like a puzzle.”
Benvenisti thinks it’s important not to make children sit and focus longer than is comfortable for their age. “Within 20-30 minutes, you should have three steps of activity. So a child can listen for five minutes, then move and dance. After that, cut paper and use play dough.” And all this playing, learning, exploring and moving is fueled by nutritious lunches and snacks from Grand & Essex in Bergenfield.
Perhaps most important, Benvenisti makes sure the children get plenty of love and attention. “This is their home away from home; I want them to be happy.” She said her greatest reward is when children are excited to “graduate” and move on to the next school.
Both Gan Yaldenu locations are open all year with summer as a separate session to accommodate family vacations. Parents can opt for a schedule that works for their needs, with a minimum of 20 hours a week. Registration is open for summer and fall 2018 sessions at both Gan Yaldenu locations.
For more information about Gan Yaldenu in Teaneck, visit www.ganyaldenu.com,Call 201/801-0291. Email: [email protected] For Gan Yaldenu Tots in Bergenfield, visit www.ganyaldenutots.com. Call 201/385-7500. Email: [email protected]