Boynton woman fulfills dream to expand home daycare; to open in spring

For two of the three years she’s had a home daycare, Cristine Thibodeau has dreamt of a bigger space where she can accommodate more children instead of having them sign up on a waiting list.

She expects it’ll happen by this spring — and be called Soleil Early Learning Academy.

The Boynton Beach resident will rent a one-story office building on Southwest 23rd Avenue off Seacrest Boulevard that she’s had her eye on for a while. In December, the city gave her permission to convert it into a daycare — what it was for about four decades until that one, Miss Little’s School, closed.

“Planning to go to a facility has actually been a dream of ours for the last two years. It was just finding the right location,” Thibodeau said. “It’s been quite a journey.”

Thibodeau opened the daycare in her home so she could spend more time with her daughter. Within five months she had a waiting list for children from 20 families.

“To be honest, it wasn’t very difficult, especially a lot of people do seek home daycares because it’s a great alternative to a large, preschool setting,” she said.

Daycares are not difficult to find in the city, however ones at home are less popular. Boynton has 61 licensed child-care facilities, according to Palm Beach County’s health department. Of those, 13 are home daycares — that includes Thibodeau’s Boynton Beach Day Care. Neighboring city Lake Worth has 82 child-care facilities, 21 of which are at a home, and Delray Beach has 51, 11 of which are at a home, according to the health department’s database.

Thibodeau will fix up the 2,659-square-foot office building south of Woolbright Road. The daycare will have room for up to 43 children, according to city documents. She plans to hire about six teachers, both part time and full time. It’ll be open for normal daycare during the week, extra care on Saturdays, and will offer “Parents’ Night Out” or “Pajama Party” once a month so parents don’t have to find a babysitter. The building will have three classrooms and be open to children 12 weeks old through pre-K.

She said she likes the new space because it remains consistent with her home daycare feel.

“I want to carry my home daycare values to this location of providing individualized, loving and nurturing child care. Being a small daycare has many benefits. First off, everyone gets to know each other. The teacher to child ratio is small. This gives the teacher the opportunity to really know the child they are caring for and give them individualized care,” she said. “It also gives the teacher the opportunity to have a great relationship with the parents. Also, all of the parents get to know each other quite well as the children become friends and hang out together outside of school.”

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