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Daycare – you gotta love it

Despite challenges, Amy Apitz loves being a provider

Photos courtesy of Amy Apitz The playground were closed during the pandemic, but Apitz’s backyard provided plenty of amusement for the kids.

NEW ULM — As Minnesota continues to struggle through a daycare shortage it is more important than ever to focus on those who continue to make a career of watching over the next generation.

Amy Apitz has worked as a daycare provider in New Ulm for 22 years and has no intention of stopping.

Apitz started her daycare for a simple reason: she loves kids and wanted to stay home with her young son. This led to a career that Aptiz has continued for two decades.

“It was something I wanted to do. I wanted to teach and learn and it is a blast being around kids,” she said.

When Apitz first began caring for kids in 1998, it was a different time for childcare providers. In those first years, it was not uncommon for parents to seek non-traditional childcare hours. Several parents were working a third shift at 3M or Kraft and needed a person to watch kids during these hours. Apitz said at the time there were a lot of calls for extended hours daycare, which she did provide, but demand lessened over time. These days, Apitz works the traditional 5:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday but will extend hours if needed.

Amy Apitz sits with Annie Lowberg, Kiana Henry and Brie Weston. Amy said her lap is the favorite place for kids to sit.

The two most significant changes Apitz has seen in daycare over the years are the changes in requirements and the demand for childcare.

In terms of training and regulations, daycare has changed significantly.

Every year providers are mandated to attend 16 hours of training on CPR and SIDS prevention. The different rules on what items can be in a crib with an infant are in continual flux. For some, it is a challenge to keep on top of the regulations but Apitz has adapted well to the changes.

“I personally think it has become a lot better because of the extra training and things we are mandated to do,” she said. “It refreshes you even if you have done the course or training in the past.”

The training is also provides peace of mind for parents. Apitz said parents want to know their child is being watched by a person who is up to date on safety.

“It is intriguing when you find new and different studies to deal with situations with potty training or behavior issues,” she said.

Apitz feels it is actually easier to find training classes today compared to 1998. The state has become more flexible in offering classes and the variety of education has improved.

“The more you get into the training is what I find intriguing,” Apitz said. She enjoys learning about the developmental aspect of child education. It helps to speak to the children on their level.

Apitz finds the extra training exciting, but acknowledge it can be an obstacle.

“It takes extra time and takes extra money,” she said. Daycare is a time-consuming occupation. In the day, providers are with children meaning the extra training needs to happen after work or on the weekend. This can lead to burnout.

Aptiz’s daycare kids observed history last year as the new 7th North bridge was constructed.

In the last few years, Minnesota has fallen into a daycare crisis. Not enough childcare providers are working to meet the demand, meaning some parents are unable to work until a provider has open space.

Apitz started her daycare before the daycare crisis began. In fact, she remembered it as a time when New Ulm had many providers, but the number of childcare providers has decreased. Even though Apitz is a fan of the extra training and regulations, she believes some providers became overwhelmed by the requirements.

The daycare shortage is mostly with infants. Daycares are only allowed to watch two children under the age of 12 months at a time. Also, Apitz said the regulations around infants have tripled since she started. Decades ago it was permissible for an infant to sleep with a blanket or pacifier, but times have changed and some parents are not aware of the safety issues.

“A lot of people are almost scared to take care of an infant,” she said.

Apitz became aware of the childcare shortage two years ago when she began receiving eight to ten phone calls a week from parents looking for childcare. The need for daycare has led to some curious social situations.

In preparation for Easter, Aptiz’s daycare kids learn to plant flowers. Once full grown the flowers will serve as gifts.

“I’ve even gotten phone calls where I think I am the second person to know (about a pregnancy) after the day,” she said. Some families will even arrange when they plan to have a child based on when she will have an opening.

“You definitely have to be structured with the age groups and the birthdays to make sure it all falls into place,” she said.

Last summer, Aptiz decided to take on few kids. She is currently watching seven children, though she will take on another infant in September. It is easier to provide attention with smaller groups.

Even if Apitz has an open spot for an infant, she tries to make sure the new baby will fit with the other children. The focus needs to be on the new infant and make sure the kids adapt.

Apitz said each child is an individual and is important to incorporate that personality with the rest of the daycare kids.

Every holiday is a chance for dress up. FRONT (L to R )Landen Ager, Esme Roman, Wyatt Stevensen. Back: (L to R) Theodore Portner, Noah Whittington, Cade Stark, Emma Musselmann, Zayden Johnson and Lillen Roman.

Education has become a component of childcare. Apitz said when she started, daycare was more play focused, but now providers are teaching simple life skills such as basic reading, letter recognition or even gardening. Her daycare kids loves to take nature walks and field trips to the zoo. The children have become well versed in birds. The kids watched the nearby bird feeders and learned about them. Apitz said her kids are always asking questions, like how fast can eagles fly?

Asked about the challenges of running a daycare, Apitz was hard pressed to think of an obstacle. She acknowledges a person new to the profession might be overwhelmed, but she has been watching kids for over 20 years and is prepared for most contingencies.

“The greatest challenge is making sure I spoil them enough,” she said. “I can’t think of anything that would make it better.

Apitz acknowledged there were hurdles and bumps to get where she is but today she is content with her daycare. Short of moving to the daycare to Disneyland, she could not think of many ways to improve.

“When the kids come in the morning I get a hug. When the kids leave at they say ‘I love you.’ It is an amazing job, I don’t even think of it as a job.”

Her advice to others looking to start daycare is to not be intimidated by it.

“If you feel in your heart you want to work with kids and this is something you want to do, do it. Don’t get frustrated and think you can’t do it because of the regulations,” she said. “You will love doing this. You might be intimidatedat first but you love it.”

For her, the best part of the job is seeing the kids experience something new. For the young kids, even the littlest achievement for them is like conquering Everest and it is amazing to see.

“I’ll do it forever or as long as I can,” Apitz said. “Kids are amazing. They are are future and it is a privilege to do what I do. And anyone looking to get into it, I strongly suggest they go with their heart.”

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