When a young parent enrolls their little one in an early childhood class at the Devonshire Cultural Center, it is often the first time the child spends a considerable amount of time away from their family. Chris Thalhammer fully understands these life-changing moments, having served the families of hundreds of Skokie’s preschoolers for more than 28 years.
“Over the years, as more parents began working outside of the home,” she said, “we began to create more and more classes to fit tighter family schedules, with more age groups, and a wider variety of programming.”
In 2016, Chris now teaches more than ten different classes annually, some of which she designed herself.
One of those is ‘Creative Corner,” a class for two- and three-year-olds, a crash course in the development of listening, social and motor skills.
And while she still excels at teaching entry level tikes, perhaps her favorite program is ‘Let Your Child’s Imagination Soar,’ a class in which three- to five-year-old children are encouraged to complete projects through play. They then dictate their stories to Chris, who documents the story for the child.
“These stories develop the child’s verbal skills and are often incredibly imaginative,” she said. “They also can be very funny.”
With its emphasis on the arts, Devonshire Cultural Center offers classes for children ages one to five. The children not only learn to socialize, share and develop prereading and pre-math skills, but also are taught to respond to music and dance. In addition they get a chance to play dress up — as well as learning everything from science, to cooking (Let the Kids Cook), to geography (World Explorers), to games and sports. As a bonus for parents, many of these classes offer Devonshire Preschool students (the school is located in the same building) an extension of their child’s traditional preschool half-day.
And Chris Thalhammer, nearly three decades later, is at the center of all of it.
“I still really love being a part of a child’s first experience away from home,” she said.
For information about the Skokie Park District’s early childhood programs, call Caryn Watson at (847) 929-7410. Contact Heidi Luksa at (847) 929-7444 for information about the Devonshire Preschool.