Kidz Zone Daycare Center in Aitkin is now enrolling children on a first-come, first-served basis

Administrator Shelly Hanneken anticipates the new center to open soon, pending Minnesota Department of Health and state licensing inspections.

“A number of children are already enrolled and anxiously awaiting for us to open,” Hanneken said.

Kidz Zone is located at 301 Minnesota Ave. S, Aitkin, in the lower level of the Aitkin Health Services building. The basement recently underwent renovations to create three classrooms, in addition to activity, dining and outdoor play areas for the Kidz Zone. Donations are being accepted at the Aitkin Health Services administration area.

Hanneken is confident that the new daycare center will not only benefit employees and residents at Aitkin Health Services, but will help fulfill a community need for childcare to support the overall workforce. Many families are put on waiting lists and have long commutes to put children in daycare with no extended hours, which limits staff with children from working second shift, Hanneken explained.  

Once licensed, Kidz Zone will offer extended hours daycare from 5:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. for up to 42 children per day. Enrollment is open to the public. Daycare application packets are available at Aitkin Health Services. All county assistance programs are accepted.

There are eight slots available for infants, ages six weeks to 16 months; 14 slots for toddlers, ages 16-32 months; and 20 slots for preschool children, ages 32 months to kindergarten.

A portion of each day is dedicated to academics based on each age group, said Kidz Zone Director Nancy Belden. The new daycare center is modeled after the Garrison Daycare Center that opened in 2013. Belden will work closely with the Garrison center’s head teacher and on-site supervisor, Emily Libson, to manage Aitkin’s program.

Children will also have the opportunity to interact with the residents of Aitkin Health Services for intergenerational activities. “The resident interaction is huge. In order to build workforce, especially in health care, we have to look at how we integrate at a young age. Those residents’ eyes light up every time the kids walk through the door,” Hanneken said.

In the fall, a contracted pharmacy will be able to provide flu shots to children enrolled in Kidz Zone for families’ convenience.

The program has been funded through Northland Foundation, Aitkin County Walleye Tank Grant, Aitkin County Growth, Neighborhood Bank, Children’s Financial and Aitkin Health Services.

“We are very thankful for the community and the support it has given us to do this project. It has been a wonderful outpour of help to make this happen and it is very appreciated,” Hanneken said.

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