SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ - Dan Rinaldi, owner of Creative Kids Academy (CKA) in South Plainfield, said the past year has been a rewarding and inspiring experience. Rinaldi and his wife Carrie purchased the South Plainfield preschool in April 2014 from longtime owner Sue Ashnault with the goal of nurturing students academically and socially while also serving as a second home to those who attend.  

In their first year, the Rinaldi’s have received a great deal of positive feedback from parents and maintained full retention of students. “I am grateful that we’ve earned their trust and support,” said Rinaldi, who prior to purchasing CKA and serving as its director worked as a fifth grade teacher in Edison for 14 years. “Our families know we are extremely committed to serving their children and ensuring their safety and happiness.”

For summer camp, CKA will offer several options for children ages 2 through 1st grade (as of September 2014) from June 29 through the last week of August. A variety of scheduling options are available and students can attend full- or half-day programs five, three, or two days a week. CKA’s Summer Camp features weekly themes such as ‘Superhero Week’ and ‘Adventure Week’ with enriching crafts, structured activities, outdoor and indoor play, water fun, gym, cooking and special programs, including Mad Science.

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“During the summer months, where many children regress due to lack of routine, structure and organized instruction/playtime, it is important to keep kids engaged and stimulated,” said Rinaldi, who is affectionately known as ‘Mr. Dan’ among parents and students. “Kids who attend a formulized camp are much better prepared, socially and academically, come September.”

This year, CKA will also be offering two, 4-week Playcamps for children 2- to 6-years old. Playcamps will be held Monday through Wednesday from 9 to 11:30 a.m. “Programs of this nature foster a safe environment for socialization and are a great way for children to stay active. It’s a short enough amount of time away from home but long enough to have an awesome experience,” he said.

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 and offers pre-kindergarten programs as well classes for 3 & 4 year olds and 2 & 3 year olds.

The school also offers scheduling to meet families part-time or full-time needs while also providing early and extended care options. With roughly 70 families enrolled each year, the school boosts an intimate atmosphere and provides patient, dedicated and individualized attention.

Throughout the school year, CKA keeps the children busy with different programs and activities planned each week. Each week, there is a "Letter of the Week" and other activities, such as reading or cooking, which will integrate that week’s letter.

There are mini libraries set up in the buildings as well as "Word Walls" to also reinforce the letter of the week. CKA’s curriculum also includes Land of the Letter People – the main program for letter recognition and dexterity – and Handwriting Without Tears.

Overall, said Rinaldi, the most important component of CKA’s curriculum is that every child must smile and walk out empowered every day.  “We are strengthening all curricula to meet the needs of all learners and keeping up with all the changes in education,” said he said. “We are constantly keeping up-to-date with what’s going on in K-5 schools so that are students are better prepared. We are preparing our students for the 21st Century style of learning.”

Additionally, for 2014-2015, CKA and its pre-k students began crossing curricular in small groups that also change rooms in an effort to provide students with a change of environment. Doing so, said Rinaldi, keeps the children moving and stimulated so they don’t get bored while also enabling the school the opportunity to offer smaller class sizes for differentiated instruction.  “Our pre-K staff worked tremendously hard last summer developing a program to meet the growing needs of not only state education but our early learners,” he said.

At CKA, all educational services are balanced out with fun activities such as themed weeks, special ‘crazy hair’ or ‘crazy sock’ days, parties, a winter concert and trips as well as visits from the Fun Bus, the Travelin' Tumblers and Swift Farm Petting Zoos.

“Children need to learn how to thrive in a classroom and learn how to play. We offer a well-balanced atmosphere in which necessary life skills can be attained,” said Rinaldi. “We are constructing the foundation for education and socialization while providing an environment where kids can still be kids.”

Seeing that students at CKA receive the best possible care, support and guidance is extremely important to Rinaldi – not just as owner of the school but also as a parent and resident of the community for close to 10 years. “This school is a commitment to our town and we are dedicated to keeping it moving in the right direction,” said Rinaldi. “A majority of our families are from South Plainfield. These kids are our future and this school is there second home.”

Creative Kids Academy is located at 1615 Clinton Avenue in South Plainfield. Registration for Summer Camp, Playcamp and the fall is currently under way. For more information, call 908-753-4477 or visit creativekidsacademy.org.