This fall, San Mateo's North Peninsula Jewish Community Day School is welcoming its first class of preschool students.
By bringing children ages 3 to 5 into the classroom, director Sandy Wolf hopes to attract young families who will stay with the school as their children graduate from finger painting and nap time to reading, writing and more advanced learning.
"Our board thought we weren't getting the message out to young families about the wonderful education at our day school," Wolf explained.
As an educator for 30 years, and author of "The Jewish Preschool Teacher's Handbook," Wolf has worked with countless students. She called preschool "a magical age when children are excited about learning. Everything is new to them. Their eyes open in wonderment."
Preschool also is a time when children need the companionship of others their age to develop language and social skills . In preschool classes, they will learn how to interact with others and how to resolve conflicts in a positive way, she said.
Though lesson plans for 3-year-olds consist mostly of play activities and art projects, Wolf said the children in her preschool program will begin learning Torah.
"We start to teach them how things came to be, Creation stories from the Torah," she said. "We tell them rabbis wrote this down. This is how people explained what was happening in the world at that time."
So far, two students have enrolled in the preschool. Wolf hopes to have 12 by the end of this year. An Israeli teacher, Edna Shabetay, is on board to steer this year's maiden voyage into the world of toddler education.
Parent Cynthia Wornick said she enrolled her son, Dennis, 3, because her previous experience at the school was "extremely positive." There is "just a very good feeling."
Last year her older son, Harry, 6, attended kindergarten at the day school. Wornick said she is pleased her youngest will have a smooth transition from preschool to day school, since they will now be at the same location.
Like many parents who send their children to Jewish schools, Wornick hopes an early cultural foundation will make Judaism a part of her sons' daily lives.
According to Wolf, that's been a goal of the school since it opened in 1986. Like the rest of school's 70 students, the newest and youngest recruits of North Peninsula Jewish Community Day School will learn "to feel, understand, live and love Judaism," she said.