Child Educational Center

Location: 140 Foothill Blvd.
La Canada, CA 91011
Phone: 818-354-3418
Program Director: Lisa Cain-Chang

Ages served: 6 weeks through 6th grade
Enrollment capacity: varies by site
Hours of operation: 6:45 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Type: Non-profit, NAEYC-accredited, Suburban


Philosophy Statement

The Child Educational Center embraces a developmental/child-centered approach to our work with children and families. An educated and research-based understanding of the physical, cognitive, and social/emotional growth of children that accurately identifies their learning and psychological needs forms the foundation of a developmentally oriented and child-centered philosophy. To be successfully implemented, love and respect for each child must permeate our thinking and interactions. In addition, the unique development and personalities of children must be fully understood, accepted, and embraced by all teachers and Center staff. As child development professionals, we understand that play and extensive interaction in nature-based outdoor environments is integral to children’s overall development. Research in the field of human and child development documents that play is the activity by which children learn and develop. An excessive focus on product and achievement-oriented activities actually undermines healthy development and undermines the foundation for a productive and satisfying life, both as a child and later as an adult. We intentionally design our curriculum, environment, and routines to provide opportunities for deep, meaningful, and sustained play for all children. Research also documents the many developmental benefits of children’s connection with and knowledge of the natural world. As a result, our outdoor environments are central features of our programs.

We intentionally design our curriculum, environment, and routines to provide opportunities for deep, meaningful, and sustained play for all children.

Special Center | Site Features

  • Teachers, program directors and facility staff design and create the outdoor environments as a team.
  • Equipment, materials and environmental design take into account not just developmental stages, but also natural elements, infused with harmonious color pallets, textures and beauty. Natural items such as sticks, pine cones, gourds and stones are readily available for children to explore
  • An “open door” practice creates the opportunity for children and teachers to spend as much time out of doors as they like, including babies and toddlers.
  • Gardening areas and experiences are integral features of all environments. Edible plants in infant yards offer accessible sensory exploration.
  • Emphasis is placed on helping parents understand the connection between outdoor environments, play and learning, as they pertain to physical and psychological health.
  • The CEC has been utilizing outdoor environments as a key component of its program since its inception in 1979.
  • We honor the experience of childhood, recognizing that children need time to be children and to play in rich, nature-based environments, in order to progress and grow into healthy adults.
  • We recognize the unique spirit of each child, including children with special needs, and nurture their particular talents.
  • The CEC has been a practicum site for college students and those learning about the Outdoor Classroom approach for more than 35 years.

Additional Info

The Child Educational Center was a pioneer in Southern California in both employer related child care and progressive early care and education. From its beginning in 1979 as an infant, toddler, preschool with 50 children to its current scope that also includes before- and after-school programs and summer camps for school-age children, the CEC serves 500 children daily with great dedication and a commitment to preserving the experience of childhood and providing extensive nature-based experiences daily. In addition to daily programs for children, the CEC also participates in an ongoing national research project on outdoor play and learning in partnership with Dimensions Educational Research Foundation. The CEC’s Consulting and Educational Services division also provides teacher training and design services for outdoor environments, and works with foundations to design and enact initiatives that further the mission of the outdoor classroom movement.

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