Creating a family environment at Kids & Co
The positive energy one is met with when entering Docklands’ early learning centre Kids & Co at Village St is palpable.
It’s an atmosphere so many families have sorely missed during the past 18 months with COVID forcing children apart into remote learning.
But with Victoria out of lockdowns amid increasing vaccination rates, those all too familiar sounds and rhythms of life are slowly returning to Kids & Co once again.
While there are few happier about it than the children and parents themselves, the centre’s owners Paul and Kathy Klisaris are absolutely over the moon.
“Walking into noise again is so uplifting,” Kathy said. “It’s great for everyone’s morale and so nice they [the children] get to see their friends again.”
After an incredibly challenging 18 months, Kids & Co is back open to the community once again, albeit slowly.
Having seen admissions drop from 120 down to as little as three at the beginning of the pandemic, Paul and Kathy described the impacts on their dedicated team of educators as “scary” and “heart wrenching”.
But grateful for government supports and the assistance of their landlord, or “Team Australia at its best” as Paul described it, the centre managed to get through and its future is looking bright again.
“We find we’re slowly crawling back,” Paul said. “For 15 or 16 of those 18 months the phone stopped ringing, the door never opened unless it was a parent coming in with their child.”
“[During] the past month we’ve started to see this ramp up and it’s just nice seeing tours and families returning.”
We’re just so happy the service is humming again.
You’d be hard pressed to find two people more devoted to early education than Paul and Kathy Klisaris.
Having forged a career together in teaching and educating young people for more than 30 years, their passion is evident in every aspect of the environment they have created at Kids & Co since its opening in 2015.
Beginning their careers in what Paul described as the “dark ages” of the sector, devoid of regulation and education, the pair was drawn into childcare through a shared desire for change.
And starting out with their first centre in 1996, Paul said they had always only ever sought to manage one centre at a time and pour their hearts and souls into doing it well.
“That’s been our philosophy to be hands on, family orientated, to have one service – and one’s enough – and do it well,” he said. “Our longevity is based on the fact that we’re family orientated, and we’re here all the time.”
“Parents bring their little ones, and they should expect to pick up their child the way they delivered it – happy, healthy, fed, bottom changed and having enjoyed plenty of activities, learning something.”
That philosophy is underpinned by a providing a caring, safe, supportive, warm, happy and stimulating learning environment, providing the children with the opportunities and flexibility to play, discover and develop at their own rate.
And they’re able to do so in a state-of the-art facility as well. Kids & Co offers a rare central city environment in the heritage-listed Goods Shed in Docklands, complete with several amazing indoor learning spaces, and an expansive outdoor play area looking out onto Flinders St.
“Whether it’s adults and children – we’re all equal. We don’t use the word family loosely, you become part of our family. And we see that every day in the way the children interact with us. They know us all by name,” Paul said.
“You can’t underscore the importance in providing an environment for a child to express itself and be whatever they want to be without judgment or fear, and we do that in spades.”
“It’s about loving what you do, and we love what we do.”
Kathy added, “The best thing for us is at the end of the day they [the children] just don’t want to go home. That for us is beautiful.”
With a diverse and multicultural team of qualified educators, Kids & Co welcomes families from all walks of life.
Licensed for 130 children, the facility, located at 8 Village St, Docklands, is open Monday to Friday 7am to 6.30 pm •
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