KINGSBURG – The new daycare in town is definitely a family affair. Sisters Shawna and Bree Johnson have partnered with their cousin Ryan Golbek to open The Imaginarium Learning Center and have even had help from younger family members in getting the place ready for young customers.
“I’m happy my mom and aunt have this school,” Ryott Johnson said. He’s Bree’s son and said helping open the daycare has been fun. “My favorite part of getting it ready was picking out the new toys and painting the clubhouse with my Aunt Becky," he said of Ryan Golbek’s mother, Becky Golbek, who helped with much of the facility’s renovation.
The Johnson sisters have been babysitting children since they were still in high school. They graduated from Kingsburg High in 2006 and 2001 respectively. After operating an in-home daycare in Fresno for seven years, they’ve decided to return home and bring their love of learning to operate a new preschool/daycare in town that can accommodate up to 50 children from infants through elementary age.
“The one in Fresno was in our house, but here it’s a bit more structured pre-school and we definitely have the pre-school curriculum,” Shawna Johnson said.
Shawna said since the children spend so much of their time at The Imaginarium they wanted it to feel like home when they renovated. They also wanted to ensure the children are learning and trying new things while in their care.
“We want it to be a home away from home. They still learn a lot of things and have a lot of social interaction that’s great with this age range, too.”
Shawna said they’ve been working with children for the past seven years and have perfected their curriculum so children are learning new topics every two weeks.
“Right now, we’re learning about the five senses and our bodies. They’ve tasted different flavors, we made listening ears headbands and we do all kinds of fun stuff like that.”
The children will next learn about creepy crawlers such as rats, lizards, spiders. “All these things may be creepy but they can learn to not be afraid of them so much and what makes them unique,” she said.
The sisters say they’ve enjoyed working together to provide care for children where they can teach them new things every day.
“It’s been awesome to work with my sister,” Bree Johnson said. “The closeness has helped us be good business partners. It’s always been our motto to teach no matter how old they are,” she said of the children in their care. “Even the tiny babies are getting some kind of lesson.”
“I love seeing the lightbulb go off when they finally get that they can put their own shoes on. It’s a huge celebration and it’s just so exciting,” Shawna Johnson said.
Aside from getting to work with each other, the sisters say there are other fun perks that come with the job including getting hugs, wearing Disney shirts and helping the children learn needed social skills to help them prepare for school.
“With us being new, they’re still getting used to our routines and our schedule. I tell you they picked it up by day four. They’ve been awesome. They’re so positive and full of life,” Shawna Johnson said.
The Johnsons say they also look forward to having the children at the center take part in Kingsburg traditions that they’ve experienced themselves.
“We’re planning on doing the Santa Lucia parade and having floats in all that. We’re going to be very involved with all the small-town charm,” Shawna Johnson said. “We were on the floats as kids and now we will make those floats. I’m so happy we’re back.”