Jane Anderson moved to southern Alberta with the idea of returning to farm life. She and her husband planned to raise their young family in a rural, small-town setting similar to what Anderson had known growing up.
But after relocating to a farm just outside of Airdrie, she saw that the city needed safe, licensed, accredited childcare for its burgeoning population. “And I just love daycares. I couldn’t stand not having a daycare,” she says with a laugh.
So, with the help of her father, she bought the former RCMP building and renovated it, opening their first daycare in the city.
Twenty-five years later, Anderson is still in business as the owner of the Magic Mountain Child Development Centres.
In January, she and her team — which now includes her daughter, Laura Bancroft — opened their fourth location in the community of Sierra Springs.
(Footprints for Learning Preschool, their fifth business, operates for children ages three to five.)
More than 1,100 children attend the centres, which offer full-time daycare, preschool programs and before- and after-school care, including summer programming, for children up to the end of Grade 4.
There’s even bussing to and from local schools, for children who attend the before- and after-school care.
While each location has slightly different options, they all have book nooks, indoor gyms, play areas and separate toddler areas for the tiniest kids. Discovery Zones ensure safe, interesting areas for kids to explore the world around them. Building centres let kids see how things, such as toasters and other small appliances, work. Science and Math Stations help with pre-numeracy and numeracy skills.
There are even Stop Motion Animation Technology Centres for older children to learn basic animation skills. “The kids absolutely love it,” Anderson says.
For her, the daycares are more than just a job. They’re a fun, fascinating way to learn and be around young kids every day.
“Children feel each day is an adventure. Whether they’re working or playing, they’re just excited because they’re learning new things,” she says.
“It ignites my own passions for life when I share time with them. It’s very rewarding.”
While Anderson has no current plans to expand her business further in Airdrie, she admits she has her eye on potential sites in Calgary.
“It’s not really a matter of keeping myself busy,” she says.
“But the type of care we provide is the type of care parents are searching for.”
Perhaps not surprisingly, Anderson has known since a young age that she wanted to work with children. Raised on a farm near Vermilion, Alta., she moved first to Edmonton, where she studied early childhood education at the University of Alberta.
She didn’t intend to go into business for herself, but her sister-in-law needed a daycare for her own young family and asked if Anderson would come along to tour a few.
But, after looking what was in the market, Anderson figured they had more to offer than what was available. “I thought, ‘Why don’t we just open our own daycare?” she recalls.
“So we did.”
Throughout the following decade, Anderson opened several successful daycares in and around Edmonton, but sold them all when the opportunity came up to buy land in southern Alberta. “I’m a farm girl and we liked the idea of raising our kids in the country, so we bought some land just outside of Airdrie,” Anderson says.
They’ve never looked back.
“Airdrie has a lot more stores and services than when we moved here, but I love that it still has that small-town feel,” Anderson says.
“It’s been awesome.”