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. 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, where she owned Brilliant Futures Daycare and Preschool, to NoLibs sight-unseen. She had no contacts in Philadelphia and found the daycare rules and restrictions in the state 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. She also feels it was worth the risk. “It’s amazing — we opened in January of 2021 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,” Salas said. Update for September 2023, there are now 155 families enrolled.
The Poons were one of Salas’ 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,” Salas said.
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,” Salas said.
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.
Nutritious Meals and Snacks
Flexi is an important character 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 — is that Paxson eats more fruits and veggies because he sees his friends eating them,” Poon said.
Salas brings extensive knowledge and experience about nutrition to the school. “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,” she said. “I am also a 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 New York before COVID hit.”
Salas’ background is crucial in making TLE the great school that it is. “I make sure I apply my knowledge on teaching adults in early childhood every day,” she said. “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.”
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,” Poon said. “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. As of fall 2023 TLE is excited to share they have obtained a Keystone Stars Level 4, and will submit to the state to begin offering reduced price pre-K for the 2024 – 2025 school year.
Poon 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 Salas’ 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.”
This Sponsored Story was written by Stef Arck-Baynes, Contributing Writer, Philadelphia Family
Eleanor Linafelt updated this story