The Learning Experience Lets Kids Learn, Play and Grow
Creating life-long learners through fun and interactive play.
Pauline Poon was looking for a new daycare for her son, Paxson, when she found out that franchise The Learning Experience (TLE) was opening a Northern Liberties location. They weren’t open yet, so she couldn’t see it in action, but she liked what she found online about the curriculum, as well as what she saw at another location. So it was a risk, but, looking back, she says, “The risk has been 100% worth it. Since Paxson started, he’s grown so much socially – he’s braver and his physical ability has grown, too.”
TLE Director Angie Salas also took a risk; she moved from the Bronx to NoLibs sight-unseen to open the newest local branch of TLE, and she feels it was worth the risk, as well. “It’s amazing – we opened in January with 5 employees and 15 children, including Paxson, and we now have 100 families enrolled, and we’re starting a waitlist in the infant room.”
The Poons were one of Angie’s first families in the building and have been an amazing supporter of the daycare. “Paxson is a wonderful child who has blossomed in our program.”
The acronym for TLE’s PA-Stars-winning curriculum is STREAM — science, tech, reading, engineering, art, and math. While it sounds serious, all elements of TLE are built on the philosophy of learning through fun, play-based activities. “TLE is focused on learning through play. Everything we do is geared towards having a fun early learning experience because it’s the foundation to being life-long learners. If kids are forced to learn, they’re not going to love math or reading or enjoy education.”
One memorable way they bring fun to learning is through the use of cute and unique characters to engage, entertain, comfort, and teach the littlest students. TLE has puppets of their signature characters, signage, books, materials, and other learning aids to make learning with them fun. For instance, Flexi Flamingo is their fitness guru, so the exercise area features posters and books of Flexi doing stretches and yoga, and a video featuring Flexi so kids can mimic and interact with her.
Characters are also key in helping with communication. At TLE, Spanish is integrated into the curriculum starting at 2 & ½ … though many of the teachers in younger classrooms are bi-lingual, so even the littlest students learn basic words with help from their Spanish-language character, Tito Toro. Sign language is also taught to increase ways and means for connection.
Flexi is important in teaching health, but their on-site chef is key to living it. Every day, TLE provides healthy/balanced meals and snacks. Pauline LOVES not sending food or worrying about what Paxson will eat. “Food is difficult for any kid but the great thing about TLE — because they are healthy and the kids all eat the same thing – he eats more fruits and veggies because he sees his friends eating them.”
Quality Outdoor Space
Another stand-out element of TLE is the playground. Many daycares have rooftop or blacktop play areas. TLE has green space, also important to health and play. “That’s one of the best things,” Pauline says “that they have a real outside playground, and an area for kids to picnic in a shady spot. It’s really well set up for big and little kids. And it allows them to play, explore, and build athleticism.”
The range of little to big is infants as young as six-weeks-old to pre-k. In fact, there are plans in the future to expand the program by applying for a grant from the city to offer free or reduced-priced pre-k, allowing her to welcome more diverse, local families into their TLE family.
Pauline feels great about her choice for Paxson, and also plans to send her 20-month-old there when she’s ready. “I can tell he feels safe and secure at TLE. He really likes his teacher. Kids don’t need very much – as long as they have an environment where they feel safe, they can thrive. And he has.”
And that’s Angie’s goal, tool. “More than anything, we want of be part of this community and help the children of Northern Liberties play, grow, learn, and thrive.”
Director, Angie Salas
In 2020, before the pandemic Angie Salas moved to NoLibs with dreams and hopes to open a daycare. She had no contacts here and found the daycare rules and restrictions in PA challenging, so she researched franchises. When she found The Learning Experience something clicked. She found it to be one of more reputable franchises, and liked their philosophy of “learn, play, and grow” and the application of it through an interactive curriculum. We were so impressed with Angie’s background and drive so we asked her to share a little more about herself with us!
Philly Family (PF): Tell us about the degrees and certifications you hold, the background on the website is impressive!
Angie Salas (AS): I’m an MSRD which means I’m a registered dietitian with a Master’s degree in nutrition, so I have a good understanding of the dietary restrictions and needs for children. I specialized in infants and children when I worked in the field. I am also an IBCLC which means International Board Certified Lactation Consultant. I know all about breastfeeding babies. I went back to school in 2012 to obtain a Master’s degree in Early Childhood Studies with a concentration in teaching adults in the field working with young children. I have been a mentor and coach to child care teachers in NY before COVID hit.
PF: Why did you decide to pursue those degrees and certifications?
AS: I have always loved children and have wanted to work with children at some capacity. Nutrition was just a natural first choice as I had to deal with very picky eating children and their quirks. I also was a La Leche League Leader for many years and supported Lactation as the ultimate first food for infants. Back in 2012 I realized my passion to work with children was more in the field of early childhood education and the classroom. I decided to obtain a degree that would support what I knew in education to support others working with children.
PF: Is it common for preschool personnel to hold those degrees and certifications? It seems like you took your education to another level in order to support both your staff and the families you work with!
AS: I’m sure many teachers obtain a Master’s degree at some point in their career, but it’s uncommon to have all the credentials that I have.
PF: How do you apply that knowledge gained from your degrees and certifications to the day to day operation of TLE? (Any special programming, training of staff, etc.?)
AS: I make sure I apply my knowledge on teaching adults in early childhood every day. I modify the TLE menus as needed for specialized diets. I support the infant teachers in bottle-feeding the breastfed babies who sometimes refuse the bottles. I am most involved in supporting children grow and develop.
PF: I’d love to share more with our families here in Philadelphia about the child care center you owned in The Bronx.
AS: I owned Brilliant Futures Daycare and Preschool- the video below is about the story of the daycare
This Sponsored Story was written by Stef Arck-Baynes, Contributing Writer, Philadelphia Family