SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ - Ever since Dan and Carrie Rinaldi took over as owners of Creative Kids Academy, a local “Mom and Pop” pre-school that's been in South Plainfield for 21 years, they have been striving to maintain and build on an environment centered around family.

The couple took over in April and have dedicated their time to insuring that CKA remains a loving and caring environment for many years to come.

"It's so important that we continue to do what we're doing here for South Plainfield and the surrounding communities," Dan said. "We have that passion for family and commitment to these children being the future."

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The Rinaldis like to think of CKA as a second family for everyone because everybody ends up meeting everybody and the kids can grow up together. But the emphasis placed on family does not overshadow the school's foundation of education.

"We're geared more for the educational as well as the loving, caring environment," Carrie said. "Once September rolls around it's full storm ahead with academics because that's important. It's a nice balance here."

The purpose of such a balanced approach is to fully prepare the kids, whose ages range from 2-6 years old, for the next stages of their lives.

"Every child's needs are able to be met because there's such a wide variety of needs whether its academic or social, so I think we go above and beyond not just to watch children, but to care for them, nurture them, educate them and help them socialize," Dan said. "We really try to focus on the whole child and not just a daycare service. We're really out to help mold these children for the future.”

CKA keeps the children busy with different programs and activities throughout the week. Each week there is a "Letter of the Week" and the activities for the week such as reading or cooking will integrate the letter of the week.

There are also mini libraries set up in the buildings as literacy is something CKA wants to supplement as well as "Word Walls" to also reinforce the letter of the week. The curriculum includes Handwriting Without Tears which is the main program for letter recognition and dexterity.

The Rinaldis balance these educational services with fun activities such as themed weeks, pool and movie trips, Halloween parties and a winter concert. CKA has also been visited by the Fun Bus, the Travelin' Tumblers and petting zoos.

The school services roughly 80-85 different families and accommodates families that need part-time or full-time care. During the academic year, which starts in September and ends in June, CKA has approximately 17-20 staff members who are mostly teachers and teacher's aides.

"I'm blown away by their excellence, professionalism and care," Dan said about his staff. "It's amazing how they treat every kid like they're their own. It's genuine love and genuine care, and we're very grateful and blessed to have the people that work here."

Creative Kids Academy is mostly comprised of children from South Plainfield but is open and available to all children within the age group.

"Living in South Plainfield makes it all the more special," Dan said. "That's one of the biggest things that we want to portray too is that we're committed to the town and committed to the children."

CKA is currently in summer camp mode until September when the academic calendar year begins. They are located at 1615 Clinton Avenue and can be contacted at 908-753-4477.