About Us
Hill & Dale Family Learning Center is a NAEYC accredited childcare and educational facility in Santa Monica. We are a 501(c)3 nonprofit and our mission is to support the working families of our community.

We have been helping children, families, and educators grow for over sixty-five years. We believe in play-based Early Childhood Education, built on secure, empathetic, and nurturing relationships within a community as well as within the individual.

Our two campuses in Santa Monica are open from 7:00am to 6:00pm (Infant Program hours are 7:30am-6:00pm), Monday through Friday with hot lunch and snacks provided by an on-site nutritionist. Our programs are open year round. We close for most major holidays as well as a few Professional Development days for our staff to stay current with educational research and plan curriculum. We also close for two weeks in the Winter, one week in the Spring, and one week in the Summer around the 4th of July holiday.

Hill & Dale has two locations:

  • The Learning Center Campus in Clover Park houses our Infant and Toddler Programs as well as the My Family & Me program.
  • The Discovery Center Campus in the Colorado Center office park houses our Preschool program.


Our Philosophy
Hill & Dale’s philosophy is built on the ideas of many theoreticians such as Dewey, Erickson, Bruner, Piaget, Blatz, Vygotsky, Adler, Maslow, Kohn, Brazelton and Greenspan. We’ve further refined our philosophy based on decades of interactions with children and their families.

We believe: that human beings develop best in nurturing relationships; that there are stages of development; that emotions and feelings are what give development meaning; and that every human being is an integrated whole and must be related to as a whole person.

Our goal is that each child sees himself or herself as a person who has valuable ideas and the ability to make decisions and take responsibility for their own feelings and actions. In addition, we strive to help parents gain the skills, knowledge and support to thrive as a parent.
In a nurturing environment, children learn to communicate their feelings, reflect on their wishes, and develop their own relationships with peers and adults. These emotional interactions are the foundation of a child’s intellectual abilities. In a structured and predictable environment, a child is empowered to learn that they have good ideas and that they can affect change. This child will believe that they belong and can contribute. The child is encouraged to make choices and learns that there are consequences resulting from these choices. As children make choices and learn about consequences, they begin to develop the understanding that they are responsible for their own thoughts, feelings and actions. In this environment, the children sees themselves as competent and worthy of happiness.

Trust & Security
Trust and security are the basis of any child’s mental health. At Hill & Dale, we believe that the first stage of developing a relationship with a child is to provide opportunities for the parents and child to develop trust in the educators at the Center. This relationship starts with Hill & Dale’s My Family and Me program. This is a discussion group for parents and a playgroup for children. Families learn about early childhood development and explore Hill & Dale’s philosophy of early learning and family development with our educators and other parents.

When a child is enrolled in one of our learning center programs, an educator will be that child’s Primary Caregiver. By developing this trusting relationship, the child will feel secure as they learn the routines and structure at the Center. This reassures the children that their needs will be met and that they will be protected and cared for at the Center. During this transition time, one of the child’s parents stays at the Center, encouraging their child to develop trust in their new Primary Caregiver. It is important at this transition time that the parents see the Primary Caregiver as a support for the parent as well as for the child. We want the parent to see us as a member of their team helping them be the parent they want to be. This transition time also provides the parent an opportunity to observe how we interact with their child and to develop a trusting relationship with the adults in the Center. During this transition time the Primary Caregiver will also make a visit to the family’s home. This visit is another way for the child, parent, and Primary Caregiver to strengthen the connection between home and Hill & Dale.

Once the child has established a relationship of trust with their Primary Caregiver, we have found that most children enjoy developing relationships with other educators. These extended relationships are similar to the relationships your child develops with other members of your family (grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc). To support the development of relationships with other educators at Hill & Dale we team-teach. We plan for the children to spend time with each of the educators in the team for different curriculum experiences, circles, and discussion groups. This helps the children see Hill & Dale as a community that is safe and supportive. It also helps children develop skills when dealing with adults who have different personalities, cultures, and languages.
Children build security and trust from nurturing relationships with parents and educators as well as maintaining structure and routine. It is important for children to be confident that their needs will be met. Structure for daily activities provides predictability. A Hill & Dale child always knows when it is snack-time, lunchtime, naptime, group time, and open play time. Within this context, they are able to make choices for themselves and take responsibility for the outcome of those choices.
We believe that the parents and educators in a child’s life need to provide different kinds of learning approaches at different times. Hill & Dale utilizes the following three approaches:

Creative Approach
The creative approach is built around play. The child sets their own goals and discovers their own procedures. During playtime, the parent and educator have a permissive attitude. The adults appreciate the child’s efforts, show interest, and are enthusiastic, watchful and protective. In this approach, the child feels satisfaction, success, and pleasure. It fosters imaginative, self-directing, adventurous attitudes leading to independence and enthusiasm.

Guidance Approach
The guidance approach is formed around relationships and feelings. The adult provides support for the child to deal with emotions and situations that arise in relationships (often when life presents struggles or challenges). The adult’s role is to be friendly, suggesting, helping, informing, encouraging and allowing the child to deal with the consequences of mistaken behavior. In this approach, the child will develop purpose, happiness, and security.

Conformity Approach
The conformity approach is based on routine. The parent or educator’s role is directive, giving the goals and procedures to the child. The adult is consistent, definite, factual, and concerned. The adult is directive in setting the routines, such as those at circle time, nap time, or meal time. It’s important that the goals set for the child and the procedures to achieve them are developmentally appropriate. In this approach, the child feels satisfaction, success, and pleasure when they have reached a goal. It fosters cooperation, responsibility, self-esteem, dependence, trust, respect and warm feelings for adults.
The educators provide an environment rich with materials and opportunities to create and explore. The adult is permissive in the play environment, watchful, protective, showing interest and enthusiasm. This is when the child sets their own goals and discovers their own procedures. Play gives children an opportunity to practice and experiment with what they know as they imagine and create new and deeper understandings of how the world works.

A child at play is like a scientist doing research. If children are in charge of their own play, they will be thinking, imagining, experimenting, exploring and learning through their own senses. At Hill & Dale, we structure our day so that the children have long periods to play and to make their own decisions regarding what and who to play with. We provide many hours of outside playtime; we believe it is vital for all children to be comfortable outdoors and to develop a love of our Earth.
Meet the Team
People, including children, families and educators, are at the center of Hill & Dale’s philosophy and mission. To support our programs, the staff at Hill & Dale works in teams to provide an environment where children, parents and educators have the opportunity to develop nurturing relationships. Our team includes multicultural educators with diverse talents, skills and educational levels. Together we strive to support the development of one another as well as of parents and children.

Executive Director

Agatha has been part of the H&D family since October 2002 as a then toddler parent and then January 2005 as a staff member. She is the mother to one H&D alumnus whom now attends Santa Monica High School. Agatha came to H&D as a young parent attending the My Family & Me Classes with a then 2 year old. She studied at SMC and National University and has her degree in Early Childhood Education with an emphasis in Administration. She has since performed every role at H&D: My Family & Me facilitator, Support Educator, Infant Educator, Toddler Lead Educator, Preschool Director and has even filled in as chef on occasion. Agatha is a resident of Santa Monica and prides herself on being an advocate for Early Childhood Education. She is a member of the Santa Monica Task Force for ECE, the Building Blocks for Kindergarten Work Group and has long-standing relationships with community organizations such as Connections for Children and Community Corp of Santa Monica. She is committed to H&D, as this is her second home, and is confident that our community is nothing short of extraordinary!

Director of the Infant and Toddler Program

Jessica has been part of the H&D family since August 2004. She is the mother of two H&D alumni and one currently enrolled Preschooler. She attended SMC and National University and has her degree in Early Childhood Education with an emphasis in Administration. She came to H&D as Toddler Educator and is passionate about gardening and promoting teamwork. She has many long-standing relationships in the community and is a skillful leader, excited about seeing H&D into the future.

Director of the Preschool Program

Adaiah has been part of the H&D family since June 2011. She is an avid photographer and is passionate about preschool curriculum especially in the arts. Adaiah has a strong background in special-needs education and curriculum development. She attended CSULA and Walden University and has her degrees in Early Childhood Development and Early Childhood Studies. Adaiah was also previously a primary educator at the preschool and loves sharing literature with the children.

Business Manager

Mitchell has been part of the H&D family since June 2016. He is a musician, Eagle Scout, film enthusiast and a foodie. Mitchell attended CSUDH and has a degree in Accounting. Mitchell has been a wonderful addition to the Admin Team and has already formed great relationships with the staff, children and families. He is excited to learn more about Early Childhood Education and to help H&D maintain its financial security and plan for its future.