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Big hearts and little people

Press Photo by Ashley Martin Four-year-old Jazmin Berry, left, colors with Nathan Klein, 3, at Laugh and Learn Daycare Nov. 10.

Melissa Stockert has taken her love of children and turned it into a child care facility in Dickinson.

"We wanted to present this in a homelike atmosphere, and we also wanted it to be so there are only two providers so that the same people are here when you drop off (children) and when you pick them up," Stockert said.

Jodi Kessel, who works at Laugh and Learn, shares child care responsibilities with Stockert. Parents can learn everything about their child's day by visiting with the women.

"I think it's so important to have a really open relationship with the parents, where you can discuss their child's day because you're with them the majority of the day," Stockert said. "They're just excited to go home and show their projects to their parents and what they're learning."

Children play most of the day at Laugh and Learn, but the day care also provides important learning opportunities, Stockert said.

"We follow a preschool curriculum daily and everything is geared toward some form development," Stockert said. "We want to stimulate children through play to learn."

Stockert has been working with children for more than a decade.

"They're so innocent and they love you so much and they're so excited about learning and everything that goes on in their lives and their stories are always remarkable," Stockert said. "Just making a difference in somebody's life is just so rewarding."

She has a teaching degree and before opening Laugh and Learn, she worked with children who have special needs.

Children begin learning as soon as they walk through the door and continue all day, Kessel said.

"Any toy that they play with will tap into many different areas of development," Stockert said.

The activities will stimulate each child's development, Kessel said.

"She turns everything she does into a learning experience," Kessel said. "Whether it's motor skills or developmental, she always finds a way to link it to some type of learning. I think anyone who brings their kids here are just lucky to have her experience."

Stockert said the location, which is not home-based, is ideal.

"The good thing about not doing it in your home is we aren't afraid to get dirty," Stockert said.

Things can get pretty messy at Laugh and Learn, but Stockert said it's all part of a routine, since every day is structured.

Stockert and Kessel center every month around a theme, such as transportation or rainforests.

Kessel also makes sure the children have fuel for an active day, since she is the cook.

"We have huge, great meals where the kids really get to enjoy eating," Stockert said. "It isn't the same thing all the time and they're exposed to new and different food all the time."

Stockert and Kessel both have children, and Laugh and Learn gives them an opportunity to spend more time with them. The day care opened in August.

"There's nothing better than being a mom, but then to have all these other little people coming up and loving on you, you truly start to love all these kids," Kessel said.

Laugh and Learn Daycare is located at 146 First Ave. E. To contact Stockert, call 701-260-4320.