Children Stay N Play opens on Central EntranceWhen Dana Billings of Duluth went on a trip to Fargo, N.D., nearly six years ago to visit her cousin, she was inspired by a unique business idea. The two women wanted to do some shopping and grab lunch one afternoon, so Billing’s cousin decided she would drop her children off at a place called Kids Kingdom.
When Dana Billings of Duluth went on a trip to Fargo, N.D., nearly six years ago to visit her cousin, she was inspired by a unique business idea. The two women wanted to do some shopping and grab lunch one afternoon, so Billing’s cousin decided she would drop her children off at a place called Kids Kingdom.
A drop-in childcare center, Kids Kingdom allowed Billings and her cousin to simply bring the children in without making an appointment or signing a contract so that they could have a few hours to go out.
“The kids ran in there because they had been there before, and when we picked them up, they didn’t want to leave,” Billings said. “I thought, ‘What a great idea to help parents out. It makes sure that your kids are safe and taken care of.’”
Billings took this idea home with her, and she began developing her own business plan. After three years of preparation, she opened Duluth’s first drop-in childcare at 33½ W. Central Entrance, located behind Minnesota Locksmith.
Open for business since Nov. 7, Children Stay N Play is a childcare center where parents can drop off their children without making an appointment or the need for a contract. The business is licensed by the Minnesota Department of Human Services and is staffed by nine women, some of whom are licensed teachers.
“Being able to just drop your kid off is really, really helpful for stay-at-home moms that need to get their cleaning done or need to go to the dentist or doctor,” said Vicki Filteau, who works at the center and has a master’s degree in educational administration from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities. “It eliminates the hassle of getting a babysitter and allows your children to be with loving adults who have educational backgrounds.” Filteau helped Billings write policies and also helped Billings with the state licensing procedures.
“We really just try to keep them entertained with what they like to do,” said Megan Peterson, a teacher’s aide at the center who has worked there since the opening in November. “We have different games that we play with them, and we have tons of toys set out. We just want them to come here and have free time to do what they want.”
Billings, who has lived in Duluth her whole life, has always had a passion for children. She volunteered at Northwood Children’s Services and at Head Start in Duluth, and took child development classes at Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College.
Billings is now working toward earning her Child Development Associate (CDA) certificate through the Council for Professional Recognition, which she is expecting to complete in May. She rents the building where Children Stay N Play is located, from her father Richard Peterson, who is owner of Minnesota Locksmith.
Billings said the building was once a garage, so the center is located in one big, open space. Her husband, Bill Billings, owns Billings Remodeling and helped with the construction and remodeling on the building.
“It took a lot of work to get to where it is now, but it’s a beautiful place,” she said.
Filteau said the business contracted with Kaplan Toys to provide educational toys for the center, and the staff also engages the children through music and story time. The building has a security system and a “panic button” that connects with local police in the case of an emergency.
“I just want it to be a place where kids can come and feel loved, and played with,” Billings said. “I can’t have any children and, more than anything, I see families that need care, and I want to help them.”
Billings said Children Stay N Play currently has 67 families, and she files all of the information given about each child so parents do not have to provide it again on future visits. Snacks and meals are available for parents to purchase for their children at the center.
“I love kids, and this is really a ministry for me,” Billings said. “It’s very rewarding. I work every day, a lot of the times all day, and it’s like my home.”
Children Stay N Play is open Monday through Thursday from 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m., Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Parents may bring their children, ages 16 months to 12 years, for a maximum of four hours a day at an hourly rate of $8. On Fridays, the rate is lowered to $5 an hour.
There is a $25 enrollment fee charge, and immunization records must be presented, as required by the state of Minnesota. Parents are also asked to provide emergency contact information and to complete “authorization for pickup” forms. Forms are available on the Children Stay N Play website at www.childrenstaynplay.com.
For more information about Children Stay N Play, visit www.childrenstaynplay.com or call (218) 722-8299.