Those balloons, bright colors and smiling faces at the north end of Town Center’s lakeside promenade, belong to It’s Kids Time, a drop-in childcare center.
Multitasking El Dorado Hills mom Jonna Keledjian — wife, mother of three and Oak Meadows PTA president — opened It’s Kids Time on Dec. 28 and offers standard daycare packages and preschool on top of her innovative “reservations optional” drop-in service at the former Hollywood Video location.
“It’s great to know there’s a safe place to drop your children off and not have to call a baby sitter,” said El Dorado Hills mom Mary Beth Beckerley, whose four boys were deeply engaged in a competitive game in the computer cafe. “These guys love coming here.
“If we want to go out to dinner or I have an appointment where I can’t take the kids, it’s nice to just drop them off,” added Beckerley, who estimates she’s currently uses It’s Kids Time about 10 hours a week. “The older three are in school, and I try to help out in the classroom so I’ve been dropping my youngest one here.”
Parents can check in their little ones online or in person. It’s Kids Time collects all the pertinent food, medical and contact information and a computer kicks out sticky labels displaying each child’s name, age and any important medical information. When the kids arrive, the label goes on and the fun begins.
On a recent Thursday morning the simulated wood shop, outfitted with safe plastic tools in Black & Decker orange, cheerfully buzzed. Boys patiently sat for tea, served by the girls, in the all-pink kitchenette next door. The girls’ zone also contains dolls, cradles, outfits for dress-up and everything needed to play house. An adjacent area is dedicated to wall-mounted puzzles, board games and books.
The “computer cafe” contains four highly restricted laptops loaded with networked games, so kids can play against each other. The computers can also be used for school assignments. Three wall mounted Sony PlayStations and a closet full of games keep the older kids busy. The PlayStations are also on the store network, and can stream cartoons, movies or educational videos.
An open, central area outfitted with kid-sized tables and chairs doubles as the arts area and snack zone. Keledjian keeps plenty of healthy snacks on hand, as well as full lunches and dinners.
In good weather, a fenced patio overlooking the lake is open for “big wheeling,” and includes a cool plastic fort to crawl around in.
Toddlers age 18 to 30 months get their own room, outfitted appropriately with changing tables and baby gear.
Fridays and Saturdays are movie nights at It’s Kids Time, which stays open late to give mom and dad some one-on-one time. When the sun sets a big screen drops down over the big windows that normally look out at the lake and the hills in the distance.
“They bring in their Pillow Pets and their PJs and they’re ready to eat pizza and watch a movie,” said Keledjian.
It’s Kids Time utilizes a sliding scale; rates starts at $7.50 per hour for the first child, then drop to $5 for the second and $3 for each additional sibling. Most families buy blocks of discounted hours in advance, Keledjian said.
El Dorado Hills mom of three Breanne Ivey uses the drop-in to free up her volunteer class time. “The two younger ones will be here for a couple hours while I’m in the classroom. They don’t mind it at all; they want to be here.”
Like Beckerly, Ivey is still sorting out how best to use her new-found freedom. “The other day I dropped them off for a couple hours to get my nails done, and I ended up taking care of other errands that would have taken a lot more time with everyone. They had a good time and I got my stuff done.”
Town Center boss Tony Mansour encouraged Keledjian at every step of the way. “What she’s doing is a genuine community service,” he said. “This helps the other businesses as well as the parents that come to El Dorado Hills to raise their families.”
Once she settles in, Keledjian said she hopes to work out agreements with her fellow Town Center merchants where, for example, the Mercedes Dealer might offer a family test driving a new car a couple hours of child care while they hammer out a deal. Restaurants could offer free or discounted child care for diners.
“I know the restaurants are benefiting from us being here because I hear where they’re going when they drop their kids off,” said Keledjian.
It’s Kid’s Time is also fully licensed for conventional childcare. The entire facility had to comply with strict “Title 22” standards for up to 37 children. The staff has passed FBI and local background checks, and know CPR and first aid.
The place looks bright and feels friendly and squeaky clean. But beneath the veneer of frivolity, security is tight. Each child has a list off approved drop-off and pick-up adults. Parents are ID’d at pickup. The doors are locked from the outside. Surveillance video cameras are always on.
The former National University director of student services has a master’s degree in educational counseling and a resumé that includes running a 150-kid childcare program in Fresno. She left the Stockton campus of to become a stay-at-home mom in El Dorado Hills. After her third child she went to work for Overcome Fitness in Cameron Park, where she started the childcare program and eventually hatched the idea for her own drop-in childcare center.
When parents asked about homework assistance, she recruited a group of girls at Oak Meadow to lead an after-school “homework helpers” program.
It’s Kids Time serves children 18 months to 12 years, but the majority thus far have been the preschool crowd. Her sole 12-year-old client saw the PlayStations and computers and was “right at home,” she said.
Keledjian expects the average age to fluctuate with school schedules, and as word gets out. “Its catching on,” she said. “More people are finding us every day.”