At Summit School of Ahwatukee the facilities offer preschool programs for children around the area, giving them a chance to start their education career on the right foot.

However, for children who are not age eligible to sign up for the preschool program, the facilities at the school offer its Toddler Discoveries program for parents interested in giving their child an early start at education.

Toddler Discoveries has been at the Summit School of Ahwatukee for roughly four years now, offering classes to children in the age group of 18 to 36 months.

Classes are every Tuesday and Thursday from 9 to 11 a.m., parents are more than welcome to stay with their child during class sessions.

The preschool classes are three days a week on Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 8:15 a.m. to 3:15 p.m.

Toddler Discoveries is geared to better assist toddlers with the transition of entering school for the first time, giving them a chance to be familiar with what schooling consists of.

Pre-K, toddler program

The genesis of Toddler Discoveries began four years ago when Director of Early Childhood Education Andrea Benkel was approached by parents wishing there was a program fitting the needs of their young toddlers.

Benkel said many of the parents who would drop off their children for preschool had younger children who were intrigued by the school’s activities, making it hard for them to want to leave.

“I looked around and saw a lot of programs that had parent toddler programs and we had a room that wasn’t being used two days a week,” Benkel said. “This way we meet the needs of our families, we meet the needs of the younger siblings of our preschoolers, so from a capacity stand point we can do it.”

The school originally started the Toddler Discoveries program believing it was an opportunity to bring fun entertainment to families in Ahwatukee who have toddlers, and it has been seeing high success with applicants having to be placed on a waiting list.

At the moment, Summit School of Ahwatukee has four preschool classrooms located towards the rear of the building where children are seen playing with different toys, huddled around in a circle listening to an instructor read, and chatting among themselves.

The age groups of the preschoolers are 3 to 5 years old.

Outside the facility there’s a full playground area where the children have basketball courts, a sand area, and a jungle gym at their disposal.

Benkel said they try to give the children playtime outside during the end of the day because if they would do it earlier the children wouldn’t want to do anything else.

Preschoolers are also given a chance to participate in gymnastic activities at the school each Wednesday in the school “Tumble Town” program.

Benkel said the school has a cluster of preschoolers who attend the toddler program and are now enrolled for preschool.

“What we find is because they are used to coming to school one day a week with their parents they see, hear, and feel that school is a safe place. When they start preschool there is no hysteria or anxiety separation from the children or the parents,” Benkel said. “We are so fortunate to be in a position to provide safety for the children and the families.”

Substitute teacher Micki McIntyre has three children attending classes at Summit School of Ahwatukee, with two of her children being in the toddler program.

She said the toddler program has allowed her children to grow socially with other children and the interaction with teachers and getting used to a routine has really helped them along the way.

“Andrea says it’s the happiest place on Earth and it really is. It’s so nurturing and they all just enjoy coming to school,” McIntyre said.

For more information about Summit School of Ahwatukee or the Toddler Discoveries program, visit

• Contact writer: (480) 898-4903 or

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