Weather Forecast


Sonshine opens in Somerset

Sonshine Learning Center owners Haley Hennlich (left) and Kris Dodge opened a new Somerset location of their business at 701 Rivard St. on July 1. Sonshine Learning Center offers childcare for children 6 weeks to 12 years old.1 / 2
Isabelle Thielke (left), 4, and Norah Tjader, 3, play at Sonshine Learning Center's open house June 19. The daycare officially opened July 1.2 / 2

Somerset area parents have a new option for childcare. Sonshine Learning Center, a New Richmond-based daycare, has opened a new location in Somerset.

"We (had) been praying about where God wanted us to go next with our Christian childcare," said co-owner Kris Dodge, "and Somerset was very clearly laid on both of our hearts."

Dodge and co-owner Haley Hennlich are renting space from The Bridge Bible Church (701 Rivard St.) for their daycare. As the Bridge Bible Church was started by Faith Community Church, where Sonshine Learning Center's New Richmond location is based, Hennlich and Dodge said it was a perfect fit for their childcare business.

"It's been great," Hennlich said.

The Bridge Bible Church has been remodeling its new building, which has previously housed a salon and other businesses, for use as a worship space. However, Hennlich said the church finished remodelling the childcare area, which Sonshine Learning Center is leasing, before completing its worship space.

Hennlich and Dodge said the childcare area turned out better than they had hoped.

"It's beautiful," both said.

The childcare area has five classrooms, including areas for all the age groups the daycare accepts (6 weeks to 12 years old), a sleep room for naps, and many toys for children to enjoy. There is also a playground area.

Dodge said education is very important at Sonshine Learning Center. One of the ways she said Sonshine strives to focus on the children's education is by having teachers advance with their classes, so children have the same teaching team until they reach the 4K age level.

Dodge said having teachers advance with kids increases the kids sense of security and well being, and allows parents and families to get to know the teachers very well.

"It just adds to the level of care that we provide," Dodge said.

Hennlich, who holds a master's degree in early childhood brain development, said Sonshine Learning Center works hard to enhance children's brain development, using a method called SMART (Stimulating Maturity through Accelerated Readiness Training), along with other research-based methods.

"It's crawling, it's rolling, jumping, spinning, doing different things that little kids normally do in a certain sequence to really enhance their brain development,"Hennlich said.

She said SMART training has been built into the children's days.

"We don't just walk to the bathroom or walk outside," Hennlich said. "They have brain development activities that are happening throughout that."

Sonshine also makes a point to take care of children's Christian education, Hennlich said. Teachers work Christian education into their weekly lesson plans. And once a week, Dodge will visit each classroom and do a lesson or activity that goes along with that week's Christian education lessons.

"It's not a sitting down and reading a dusty old book," Hennlich said. "It's Kris and the teachers bringing the Bible to life."

Getting a new daycare center location up and running has been hard work. But at the end of the day, Hennlich said, it has been worth the effort.

"It's rewarding," Hellich said, "and just a blessing--God's just blessed us in the process."

Hennlich said some spots at the Somerset location have been taken by families transferring from the New Richmond location, as well as families that were on a waiting list. However, there are still openings at the Somerset location.

The Somerset location can accept about 40 children. Sonshine Learning Center accepts children age 6 weeks through 12 years, but Hennlich said the Somerset location will be focusing primarily on younger children, as the Somerset School District already has a good program for older children.

Sonshine is open 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday-Friday. For more information, call Sonshine's Somerset Location at 715-247-3766.

Gretta Stark

Gretta Stark has been a reporter for the River Falls Journal since July of 2013. She previously worked as a reporter for the New Richmond News from June 2012 to July 2013. She holds a BA in Print and Electronic Media from Wartburg College.

(715) 426-1048