Nurturing Hearts and Minds: Inside Leah Rosenthal-Kambic’s Play-Based Learning Philosophy | Daycare & Early Childhood Education Series

How can an entrepreneur build a thriving preschool business that nurtures children and supports families through a play-based learning philosophy, unwavering resilience, and a strong sense of community?

In this episode, Leah Rosenthal-Kambic, owner of KidTime Inc., shares her journey from starting as a teacher to becoming the owner of four preschool sites in the Bay Area of California. Despite the challenges of rapid growth and navigating the COVID-19 pandemic, Leah’s dedication to providing a warm, supportive environment for children and families has been instrumental in KidTime’s success.

Leah discusses the importance of allowing children to learn through play, fostering a hands-on approach to education, and creating a community that supports both children and parents. She also emphasizes the value of being adaptable and resilient in the face of adversity, both as a business owner and as a parent.

As an empathetic and insightful leader, Leah aims to inspire other early childhood educators to trust their instincts, advocate for play-based learning, and prioritize self-care. She shares her experiences navigating the challenges of managing multiple sites, supporting her staff, and empowering parents through coaching and transformative retreats.

Leah sees KidTime as more than just a preschool – it’s an opportunity to make a lasting impact on the lives of children and families. Through her team’s efforts, she hopes to continue providing high-quality, play-based education while adapting to the evolving landscape of early childhood education in California.

Mentors that inspired Leah:

  • Bev Bos, a renowned childcare advocate who promoted hands-on, play-based learning and inspired much of Leah’s educational philosophy.
  • Transformative retreats that helped Leah gain confidence, trust her instincts, and prioritize self-care.

Tune in for valuable insights on building a thriving preschool business, supporting families, and fostering a love of learning through play from Leah Rosenthal-Kambic, a passionate advocate for early childhood education.




Welcome to another edition of inspired stories where leaders share their experiences so we can learn from their successes, how they’ve overcome adversity, and explore current challenges they’re facing.

Anthony Codispoti (05:39.308)
Welcome to another edition of the Inspired Stories podcast, where leaders share their experiences so we can learn from their successes and be inspired by how they’ve overcome adversity. My name is Anthony Codaspodi, and today’s guest is Leah Rosenthal -Cambic, owner of KidTime Inc.

Leah Rosenthal-Kambic (05:41.7)

Leah Rosenthal-Kambic (05:45.732)
I feel good, yeah, ready to go.

Anthony Codispoti (06:07.628)
preschool that believes in allowing children to be children. That means allowing and encouraging movement when the little bodies need to wriggle. While they definitely use a curriculum, the kids are learning through their favorite thing, play. They pride themselves on being a community for their staff and families by offering many events for people to meet and spend time together. In 2021, Leah started a parent coaching business, which leverages her knowledge of her early childhood and her emotional IQ.

to ground even the most anxious parents. And we’ll hear about an upcoming retreat that she has planned. And she has her own podcast too, called The Empowered Mom. And before we get into all that good stuff, today’s episode is brought to you by my company, Adback Benefits Agency, where we offer very specific and unique employee benefits that are both great for your team and fiscally optimized for your bottom line. One recent client was able to add over $900 per employee per year to their bottom line by implementing one of our proprietary programs.

Results vary for each company and some organizations may not be eligible. To find out if your company qualifies, contact us today at addbackbenefitsagency .com. Now back to our guest today, the owner of KidTime Inc, Leah. I appreciate you making the time to share your story today.

Leah Rosenthal-Kambic (07:20.996)
Thank you so much for having me. I’m excited to be here with you.

Anthony Codispoti (07:24.332)
Okay, so Leah, let’s start at the beginning. As I understand it, you first started out working at KidTime before eventually becoming the owner. Talk to me about how that journey unfolded.

Leah Rosenthal-Kambic (07:35.396)
I did. So I started at kid time at 19 years old in the actual 90s, as my staff say now the 1900s. So I started, fell into it really. And I just fell in love with working with children. I was in school and studying my early childhood education. And so I did, I think about a year as a teacher’s aide and then became a teacher.

and then an assistant director and eventually director. And in 2018, my co -owner and I bought out the business from our previous owner when he retired. So once we took over the business, we decided to expand and we opened three more sites. So we went from one little school to four sites and it’s all been going gangbusters since. Yeah.

Anthony Codispoti (08:28.747)
Yeah. So that’s, that’s quite an arc. You start out as an employee and over the course of 18, 20 years, you become, you start running the place and then you become an owner. And shortly after becoming an owner, you decide we’re going to grow this and not just by one location. You went from one to four. That’s quite an undertaking.

Leah Rosenthal-Kambic (08:41.508)
Mm -hmm.

Leah Rosenthal-Kambic (08:51.14)
We went from one to four and we went from one to four through basically we started growing right before COVID. So it was a very wild ride through 2020 to about 2023. We were just, we’re obtaining use permits and trying to keep everybody afloat while COVID was active and all of that kind of stuff. So that was a really, really wild time, a really challenging time.

We’ve settled down into our four sites and we feel like we’re right where we need to be. But yes, it has been a journey. It’s been quite a lot for two teachers that don’t really, you know, we, we are not business people. We’ve had to learn on the fly. And, we actually think that’s a little bit to our benefit because we are preschool teachers. And if anyone knows preschool teachers, they’re very resourceful. They’re really great at pivoting and they’re really great at making something out of nothing. So that’s kind of been our, our MO the whole time.

Anthony Codispoti (09:47.914)
So let’s tell the audience where your centers are located. City, state, I get a picture for us there.

Leah Rosenthal-Kambic (09:55.108)
Sure, we’re in the Bay Area in California, so we’re in the East Bay, we’re east of Oakland in Pleasant Hill and Walnut Creek, California.

Anthony Codispoti (10:03.114)
Okay, and so you guys were growing through the early part of COVID, which is the worst time to try to grow a school, right? Because, and in California especially, if memory serves, you know, the shutdowns were particularly onerous. Talk to us about what those early days of the COVID period were like for you.

Leah Rosenthal-Kambic (10:11.236)

Leah Rosenthal-Kambic (10:25.732)
Yeah, it was wild. So when COVID, when the shutdown started, we had our one main preschool was fully running. We had a second location, which was our after school care program that was fully running. And we had just opened our second preschool six months before the shutdown. So we were just hitting our stride on preschool number two, things were starting to really kind of.

feel like it was going to be nice and smooth and easy and then lo and behold. So when the shutdown happened, we made the decision to not let anyone go. We decided a lot of schools were furloughing and we opted not to. And my biggest concern was losing people for good. And I’m so glad that we made that decision. It was very, very hard to stay afloat at the time, but we retained all of our staff and that was.

It was so, so important to us because we always say we would be nothing without our teachers and our teachers are so wonderful. And, you know, it was just something we weren’t willing to risk and leave them in the lurch. So we took all kinds of measures that we could. We took out a PPP loan and an emergency disaster loan and we just kind of

held on tight and tried to do the best we could. So at some points we had five or 10 kids total in our whole school of 80 because they were the only kids allowed to come to school because their parents were essential workers. But we still showed up and we did what we needed to do. Our teachers were making YouTube videos for the kids and they made a whole channel for those that weren’t allowed at the beginning. We could only take, you know, these essential worker children. So.

We had to sort of patiently wait to be able to bring everyone back into the mix. But one by one, you know, as people were allowed to come back kind of in waves, we got back up to numbers and it was tricky. We had to keep all of our classes very separate, which we don’t typically do. But again, it’s that pivot. We just, we, I’m dizzy when I think about how many pivots we made during that period of time.

Anthony Codispoti (12:38.697)
I can only imagine how challenging that was. I had kids that were in daycare or preschool here where I live in Columbus, Ohio during the early part of COVID. And I knew some of the owners personally. And to hear their stories, what they were going through, the loss of income, trying to hold on to their staff, having to pay rent at these expensive locations. I can only imagine the years that it added on to your life. What were some of the?

Leah Rosenthal-Kambic (13:08.068)
I’m going to go ahead and close the video.

Anthony Codispoti (13:08.745)
coping mechanisms that you use to get through that difficult time.

Leah Rosenthal-Kambic (13:13.476)
That’s a great question. At the time, I think I was sort of flying in a state of shock and just, I don’t, I won’t say that I really was coping at the beginning. I was just, I was just acting. We just had no choice, but to soldier forward. our clients, I think one of the things that really helped at that time was we have great relationships with our clients. As you mentioned, we’re very much about community and supporting our families.

And a lot of our parents said, we’re still going to pay your tuition. It’s okay. We understand. We all thought it would be a couple of weeks or a month, right? So people thought, no big deal. and you know, once things started to get sort of back into a normal space, we, we offered reimbursements to a lot of those families that paid and some took it and some said, no, thank you. We just, that’s just, we wanted you to be here when this, the whole thing was over.

Anthony Codispoti (14:01.672)
Leah Rosenthal-Kambic (14:05.892)
So that was amazing and just being able to lean in into our community and into each other as a staff was just massively helpful. We all really are a tight team and that was a godsend at the time.

Anthony Codispoti (14:19.272)
And so you have four centers now. Are there plans for additional growth or do you feel pretty comfortable with where you guys are at the moment?

Leah Rosenthal-Kambic (14:27.204)
In this moment, we love where we are. We have one of our sites, we’re actually in a use permit right now process to move to a larger location. So that one’s going to grow a little bit. It’s our infant and toddler program. But, you know, I’m of the mindset that we’re here to meet needs. And so if the need arises and if we find the right location, I don’t see any reason why we wouldn’t continue to grow.

As long as we stay very consistent and quality in all of our sites. That’s always just been the baseline. We, you know, we’re not willing to just keep opening centers everywhere and hope for the best. We want to make sure we’ve got enough of a framework of onboarding and good training so that our teachers really are consistent and can all be up to our standards.

Anthony Codispoti (15:15.784)
It actually makes me think of a question here because I wonder, you know, when you’re operating a single location, you’re probably a lot more hands -on. You’re in the center every day and you grow to two, you grow to three, you grow to four. You can’t be at all four sites simultaneously. It’s probably not even feasible to pop into each of the four sites, you know, every day. Talk to me about how you had to kind of shift your role inside of the company.

to be able to accommodate that growth and make sure that these centers could run a little bit more autonomously.

Leah Rosenthal-Kambic (15:49.348)
Yeah, that’s actually a really relevant question because so you asked about coping. I think it was, so 2020 was the shutdown. 21 in the fall, I went on a retreat. I had been so stressed and I’d gotten through basically a year and a half of this time period. And I went away on a retreat and had this very transformative experience where I realized.

I cannot be the director of my site anymore. We have grown, I am spread too thin. I had an amazing assistant director who was just waiting in the wings when I was ready to give up my role. And I finally said, okay, I’m ready, promoted her. And that’s when everything shifted. I found my footing again. I felt grounded again. And I had a little bit of space and time in my brain.

and that’s when I decided to start parent time, my parent coaching arm, because during that period of time, the stress levels, as you just mentioned for parents were off the chains to parents were home with their kids, trying to work, doing distance learning. It was such a nightmare. And I just really saw this need for, for parents to have some support as well. So going to this retreat and, and kind of stepping out of the fray for.

three days gave me this opportunity to really reset. And that’s how Parent Time was born.

Anthony Codispoti (17:20.743)
I want to hear more about parent time and the upcoming retreat, but tell me a little bit more about this retreat that you went to that was so transformative for you. What was the experience like there?

Leah Rosenthal-Kambic (17:31.652)
So, yeah, so I found this summer camp for women in Oregon, just outside of Portland, and I didn’t know anybody that was going. And I just kind of took a leap and this looked really amazing. It was tech -free. It was marketed to entrepreneurs, women who are changemakers, people who run businesses who need a break, and it was all women.

and it was just incredible to get away, especially from my devices at that time. My phone was glued to my hand. It was constantly, we were waiting for the next update and when were the regulations going to change and you know, who had COVID now and do we have to close a classroom? And it was just so hard. So being able to set the tech down and be in nature and around all of these other inspiring women, it was sort of like just being.

embraced in a huge hug and I had been needing it. It’s you know how you sometimes you don’t know what you need but the woman who yep and there it is so Marlee Williams is the leader of she no longer runs Camp Yes but now she runs amazing retreats and she she stated it that when you come to camp she hoped that you would get what you needed and something that you didn’t even know you needed.

Anthony Codispoti (18:35.43)
Until it shows up. Yep.

Leah Rosenthal-Kambic (18:56.708)
And I mean, it gives me chills even now to think about it because when I walked out of there, I was like, yeah, I needed permission to give up this role, to take on a different role. I’m now executive director of the four sites. I’m able to bounce around. I’m able to support all my directors. And it just, you know, I couldn’t let go. I was so, I couldn’t see the forest for the trees, especially with everything going on with COVID. So it was the permission I needed.

Anthony Codispoti (19:23.109)
What a cool story. And so out of that experience came this idea for your parent coaching.

Leah Rosenthal-Kambic (19:31.172)
Yeah. So I started the parent coaching program, in 20, 2021. And basically I meet with groups. I do individual and I do couples. and we do zoom calls and we just kind of talk about whatever is going on. at first I thought it would be more instructional. I’ve worked with children for 26 years. So I thought, you know, I’ll give people guidance on potty training and all of these kinds of things. And we do that a lot, but we also spend a lot of time.

unpacking why we parent the way we do. And I think especially for people of my generation, I was born in 79, I’m 44. So many of us were raised in such a different way than how we want to raise our children. So those messages and the things that are ingrained in us from our childhood, we have to unpack them, see them, notice them, wish them away and make decisions about how we want to parent. So it’s kind of morphed from being more instructional to really,

a little more internal and that has been extremely rewarding. I love these breakthroughs that I get to have with moms where, you know, they realize, my gosh, I’m doing this thing because it’s what I learned and not because it’s what I believe or what I think is best for my child.

Anthony Codispoti (20:47.972)
It sounds like therapy for parents.

Leah Rosenthal-Kambic (20:50.788)
It is a little bit therapeutic. Yes, I’m able to give guidance and direction. And so it is definitely a balance of both. And it’s a lot of listening and a lot of reflecting. I hear a lot from parents, I’m not doing a good job at this. I really don’t like how I handle this. And as we kind of talk about the situation, I can say back to them, well, it sounds like actually I had a conversation with someone over messenger last night.

Anthony Codispoti (20:52.452)
instructional therapy.

Leah Rosenthal-Kambic (21:18.724)
A mom said, you know, I beat myself up when I yell at my kids and I lose my temper. And then, you know, I have to apologize. And we talk it out. And I said, but what would you be teaching them if you were perfect? You know, we have to teach our kids how to be imperfect and how to figure out how to get back up, how to apologize when we’ve misspoken or lost our, our composure. You know, this is a huge part of parenting. So.

I love a good reframe and kind of turning it back and saying, actually, you know, I think you are doing what you intend to do. It just maybe doesn’t feel like it’s you on the inside because you’re torn between how it sounded to you and how you intended it to sound.

Anthony Codispoti (22:01.38)
I love that so much. That’s something that I really try to make a point of doing with my own boys. I’ve got two sons, eight and nine, who are loud, active, physical boys. And yeah, sometimes I lose my temper and I yell at them. And then I cool off and I’m like, why did I do that? And I beat myself up about it. But then I do exactly what you just talked about. And I go and I apologize. And here’s the thing that I always try to make sure that I do in that apology is not make an excuse for what I did.

I’m sorry that I yelled at you, but you guys were being crazy. It’s like, no, there’s no but in there. I’m sorry I yelled at you. I’m gonna do better next time. I apologize for that. I shouldn’t have raised my voice at you. That wasn’t necessary. And they’re very receptive to it. And I think to your point, I’m modeling the behavior that I want from them because none of us are perfect. We’re all gonna slip up. We’re gonna lose our temper. We’re gonna do something we didn’t, we wish we hadn’t done.

Leah Rosenthal-Kambic (22:32.9)
I’m going to go ahead and close the video.

Anthony Codispoti (22:59.362)
But then what do you do from that point when you catch yourself?

Leah Rosenthal-Kambic (23:02.692)
Exactly. Life is all about getting back up again, right? And I think, you know, there’s this especially for moms, and I’m sure dads feel this way as well. But my clients tend to be moms, that’s tends to be who reaches out. But you know, there’s this internal mom guilt and shame that we walk around with all the time, especially as working moms. And, you know, people need to hear that they’re doing a good job and that they’re

a human and you know our children appreciate seeing our humanity. They connect to us better when we’re not. I remember as a child being intimidated by adults and you know being afraid of them very often you know and and if some friend of mine’s parents were strict or something and you know they made me nervous and I just I want to be able to form relationships with my child and I want other parents to have that opportunity where

They’re genuine and it’s real and they can come and talk to you because they know even if you do fly off the handle, you will apologize and you will find your baseline again and show them how to do that.

Anthony Codispoti (24:12.258)
I like that. So you do a lot of one -on -one coaching. Now this fall, I think in August, you have a retreat. So this is like a group getting together to sort of support each other. Tell us more about that.

Leah Rosenthal-Kambic (24:16.1)
Mm -hmm.

Leah Rosenthal-Kambic (24:25.892)
Yeah, so, so it stems back actually, my mom passed away at the end of 2017 very unexpectedly. My mom was the most loving, wonderful human. I miss her every single day and her name is Lori. And I decided that, in, in parent time, as sort of, I mentioned, I went kind of for more instructional to more of this internal work. My mom was the most selfless woman and.

Anthony Codispoti (24:38.946)
What’s her name?

Leah Rosenthal-Kambic (24:55.908)
You know, we wear that as a badge of honor, but it’s really not the best way to live your life, to be selfless. there should be somewhere where you kind of pour into your own cup, right? So this retreat that I’m holding is an honor of my mom. I want to bring other women together into a community space where we can unpack our, our drama and our nonsense that we grew up with. Send it away, move it along.

exit it from our bodies and our psyches and our minds and make plans about how we want to be as parents. So I want to take them to a beautiful, quiet space that’s in nature. You know, it was such a game changer for me. And I’d never been on a retreat before when I went to that camp. I’ve since been to several and everyone I’ve gone to has been another, there’s sort of a life shift that comes after each one. So I’m just, I want to share that experience with other moms and

Kind of be that mom to them and, you know, honey, sit down, let me feed you. Let’s talk about it. Let me listen to you and show you that support.

Anthony Codispoti (26:06.785)
What’s the name of the retreat and where can people find out more information about it?

Leah Rosenthal-Kambic (26:11.492)
It is called it’s your turn and I have a retreat website I can link for you but it is it’s in Castro Valley, California which is just about 20 minutes from the Oakland Airport and It’s in a really neat location because it’s easy to get to but it feels like you’re far away. It’s on acres of land And it’s in a beautiful home with outdoor lots of beautiful outdoor space So I’m envisioning, you know lots of alone time where people can take

take breaks and be on their own and journal and lay in a hammock. And then also times where we’re together. And I have a co -facilitator who does energy work, who I’ve worked with at a couple of retreats now, who has absolutely changed my life in terms of helping just get rid of those old patterns and wishing them away. So I’m very, very excited about my co -facilitator. It’s going to be amazing.

Anthony Codispoti (27:04.129)
And what are the requirements to be able to attend? Is it just moms, moms or dads, parents of certain ages?

Leah Rosenthal-Kambic (27:13.092)
It is for moms. It does not have to have your children of any age are fine. It’s not geared just toward preschool. Really, I mean, I know parents that have teenagers who absolutely that mom needs to get away and take a little break. So yeah, the only requirement is your mom and you need a break and you’re willing to get be a little introspective and a little vulnerable with us.

Anthony Codispoti (27:38.304)
And what are the dates? It’s in August.

Leah Rosenthal-Kambic (27:40.932)
August 22nd through 25th.

Anthony Codispoti (27:43.201)
Great, okay, and you’ll provide us the URL to link to in the show notes here. We’ll let people know about it. Okay, so I wanna know a little bit more about the centers. You guys have different programs, you service different age groups. Tell us about.

Leah Rosenthal-Kambic (27:47.652)
Yes, we’ll do, absolutely.

Leah Rosenthal-Kambic (27:58.276)
So I have two preschools, so those are ages two through six. We have one infant care center and that’s zero to four and one after school program, which is four and up basically up till 12th but fifth grade. So, and all of them are the same philosophy. We are play -based, we are hands -on, we wanna let kids be kids. Our after school kids have a lot of fun because they’re coming from sitting at a desk all day.

and they get to come and play and do all of the fun ooey gooey sensory stuff we did in preschool. We still do with the big kids and they absolutely love it. So we’re doing our slime and our finger painting and all of that good stuff. And we just think it shouldn’t stop at five. And, you know, all of this sensory learning is so important from zero to five that that is our bread and butter. You know, we’re social and emotional and play -based learning are what kid time is all about.

Anthony Codispoti (28:54.304)
And so you’ve got a preschool center. Is this sort of like a preschool slash daycare or is it like limited hours, more like a traditional preschool? What’s sort of the difference between those two terms?

Leah Rosenthal-Kambic (29:06.052)
Sure, all of our centers are open full days. So we just call ourselves preschool, but we are also full day care. So we’re open from seven to six p We’ve got, you know, all the working parents drop off in the morning. We do sort of our academic time, which I use that term loosely in the morning. And the afternoon is all hands on play. And our academics are also hands on play. We just are a little more targeted. So depending on the age group.

Anthony Codispoti (29:33.792)
Are there any particular philosophies that you guys draw inspiration from in setting up your curriculum?

Leah Rosenthal-Kambic (29:41.028)
The biggest one that we lean into is called emergent curriculum, which essentially means if you’re in an activity that you’ve created for your children and they are interested in something else or they’re taking it a different direction, we go that direction. So we don’t lead from an egoic place of I made this plan and you will do this activity and we’re going to finish this story. An example I can give is, you know, sometimes we’re doing something and.

there’s a spider on the wall and the kids are really excited about where is that spider going and they want to follow the spider. So it’s like there are distractions that we could let sort of take over or we can follow that distraction and we want to go where the children’s interests are. They learn what they love, they learn what they care about. So everything can shift at any time depending upon how it’s presented and what their interest level is in it.

I have absolutely stopped a book in the middle and said, you guys don’t seem like you like this book. We should do a different thing now. And they’re like, yeah, let’s do it. So, you know, it’s really just meeting the needs of the individual child is our, is our main MO.

Anthony Codispoti (30:50.528)
And the part of the country that you’re in, it’s a little more temperate year round. Do the kids get to be outside quite a bit?

Leah Rosenthal-Kambic (30:56.996)
yes, we are outside probably 75 % of our day. We do early, you know, the morning time, we do circle time and we have our meals and doors and nap time. But for the most part, all of our activities, we try to set up things that can be indoor slash outdoor. So we’re in and out as much as possible. And you know, kids need fresh air, they need to run, they need to be free, they need to be flexible. Some mornings you drop off time, it gets a little wild in the room and you’ll hear a teacher say, all right, who needs a quick run?

We just open the door and let everybody go take a lap or two outside and then they come back. They’re full of energy. And, you know, I think a big pitfall of childcare and preschool is having kids sit down and be quiet too much. We have it actually posted on our wall. It says sitting down and being quiet is not a marketable job skill. I don’t know why we think this is how we’re supposed to teach two year olds how to live their life.

Anthony Codispoti (31:50.496)
And did I hear you say meals are provided?

Leah Rosenthal-Kambic (31:53.7)
Yeah, at different sites, it’s different. One of my sites, we provide all the meals. Other sites, we just provide snacks and parents bring lunch. But we serve meals all day.

Anthony Codispoti (32:03.904)
And at least some of the centers you have after care. So kids are coming from another school to your location until parents are able to come pick them up. How does that transition happen? How does that transportation take place?

Leah Rosenthal-Kambic (32:10.436)

Leah Rosenthal-Kambic (32:16.612)
We have passenger vans and a couple of teachers are drivers and we have one driver that’s just a driver. So it’s always a juggle. We pick up from three different schools and typically three different schools depending upon the year. And they’re all going different ways and they all show back up and everybody’s there. So we have a busy afternoon with our bank kids.

Anthony Codispoti (32:40.128)
Leo, what are some of the most common concerns that parents have when it comes to starting their kids at a new school like yours? And what can you tell them to help put them at ease?

Leah Rosenthal-Kambic (32:51.044)
Yeah, I mean, I think again, it’s that guilt and shame shows up first. Parents are always worried that their little one is not going to be okay. And if there’s tears that drop off, they’re going to be miserable all day long and the parents leave and go off to work upset. And, you know, so we’re always telling parents, we will tell you what’s really going on. We’ll send you pictures, but please, you know, know that they’re in good hands once they’re at the site.

The transition of drop -off is usually the hardest part for everyone involved. So we like our drop -offs to be very quick and painless. We will take the child if we need to and hold them or take their hand. But working into a routine where the child feels empowered and drop -off is so helpful. We have a lot of kids that will push their mom out the door or their dad out the door. And, you know, or we do three waves and three kisses, whatever their pattern and routine is, but.

We love establishing something so the child knows what to expect. And just really, I think I would love parents to just have faith in their own intuition that they chose a center that they can trust the people. And if you can lean into that trust, you’re gonna be so much less fraught with misery on your first few days of school. The kids will get busy and distracted and be having fun in an hour and you are at work like, I’m the worst mom.

So we just want to take that out any way we can. So that and visits, you know, we really encourage parents to come and visit your program with your child before you start. Ask your school, hey, can we just play for an hour in the afternoon and just walk with the parent there so they can get a feel for it. And when children know that their parents feel comfortable with something, they will feel much more comfortable. They pick up on our anxieties. So we really want to try to shield them from that as much as we can.

Anthony Codispoti (34:48.189)
You know, listening to you talk reminded me of the first time I dropped my oldest son, Gio, off at daycare. And my own reaction surprised me. You know, I was looking forward to him getting into daycare to sort of free up my attention and be able to, you know, go back to work and, you know, focus on the things I needed to do to be productive. And as I walked in there and handed him over to the daycare worker who I had met before, you know, he had been in and done a tour.

I got all choked up and I had to leave quickly and I found myself in tears on the drive home and I was like, okay, that was surprising. I wasn’t expecting that out of myself. And then, yeah, I found myself very much in that place that you’re describing where I was thinking about him all day and wondering did we do the right thing. And with some repetitions, you know, the second day was much easier, the third day much easier.

Leah Rosenthal-Kambic (35:20.644)
Mm -hmm.

Anthony Codispoti (35:46.716)
you know, and after we’d been going there a couple weeks and he was excited to go in, and you know, and he kind of reached for the workers there, the teachers there, that made me feel a lot better, you know, just I needed a little bit more time, a few more repetitions to get more comfortable with that process.

Leah Rosenthal-Kambic (36:05.028)
Yeah, I mean, it makes perfect sense. Kids and adults are not different in that we all really are creatures of habit. We like routine. We like to know what’s next. We like to know what’s coming. And that’s a big new unknown. And, you know, the way I look at it is children are just, they’re like little pieces of us walking around in the world, right? So you’re leaving this little piece of yourself with someone you don’t know that well. Of course it’s nerve wracking. And…

It’s really just more about what do you let your child see and what words are you saying? I’ve had parents who you can see the tears in their eyes and they’re saying to their child You’re gonna have so much fun with your teachers and I’ll see you after nap and I love you by and you know I’m away out there falling but you know, they’re they’re trying to hold it together and I think that’s important because we don’t want to put our Stress and and our anxieties on them any chance we can any chance we can to keep that to ourselves?

Anthony Codispoti (37:01.244)
How would you describe what sets you and Katam apart from others in the preschool and daycare space?

Leah Rosenthal-Kambic (37:09.252)
I would say, you know, kid time has always been about being a community for families. We really try to show up for not just the children, but for the parents and the whole family as well. And I think that’s translated. We have a really good reputation in our community. People know of us as being more than just kind of a daycare center. So I think it’s really that focus on getting to actually connect with people.

I’ve heard of preschools where they don’t really like the parents to interact because when they do, then they talk about things they don’t like and then they bring it to the director and now there’s more work for the director to do. And in my mind, you know, I’m a growth minded person. Our business is all about always being better and learning something new every day. So to me, it’s, you know, I would much rather us kind of make those connections and continually improve.

the programs for everyone than to have this egoic feeling of, well, we’re the best and we do what we do and you better like it or not. We’re not for everyone. Not everyone wants to do play -based curriculum. Not everyone wants their kids to get as messy and hands -on as we do. And we’re happy to help people find the right school for them if they’re not going to be a fit because you need to feel comfortable and happy as well or your child will not.

Anthony Codispoti (38:33.755)
That’s really profound. Can you share maybe a success story of a particular child who thrived under your care? Maybe they were experiencing a little challenge and you guys were able to help them through it.

Leah Rosenthal-Kambic (38:45.22)
Yeah, you know, because I think we’re set up to be such physical and so much outdoor time and, and we’re not sort of this regimented program. We’ve done very well with kids that were struggling in other programs. We’ve had many, usually boys, usually three or four year old boys that mom will call and say, my gosh, you know, we’re getting kicked out. The behavior is a problem, this and that, and they come to us and they do so much better.

And I think we do not give up easily on a child. I will end the relationship with a family more often than not, because the parents don’t work with us and are not cooperative. I have never let a child go because of their own behavior. It’s always been because we bring the behavior to the parents. We say, how do we work on this? And let’s strategize. And if the parents are checked out, that’s when it’s not going to work. So.

Anthony Codispoti (39:33.851)

Leah Rosenthal-Kambic (39:44.035)
I think those kind of tougher wild friends that need to move a lot and have a lot to say, we want to give them a place where they get to learn too. This world is not about cookie cutter. We’re all different. So everyone should have a place.

Anthony Codispoti (39:58.235)
I really like that. I’m curious to hear more about what that approach looks like in the real world. I remember when we were going through the daycare experience here, we had friends who, great parents, great kids, and the kids were having some behavior problems at the school, and the parents were just mortified, and they didn’t know what to do. They wanted to be helpful, they wanted the behavior to change. And in that case, where you’ve got a parent who’s interested and cooperative and wants to be part of the solution,

How are you, you know, in this case it was like a child who kept biting other kids. How would you work through something like that?

Leah Rosenthal-Kambic (40:30.372)
Mm -hmm.

Yeah, I mean biting is super common, especially amongst our little friends that aren’t verbal yet. It’s a very quick way to get a reaction. So, you know, whenever we have a behavioral issue that we need parent help with, typically it’s we have a meeting, we talk about it, we try to identify the reason why things are happening. Often we can pinpoint it’s usually a power issue or an attention issue or a control issue. And so we give the parents tools and

Sometimes even though the behavior is happening at school, at home, the parent can give them, do different things, like give them more power and control in more measured and specific ways so that they’re not seeking that attention or that power need. And again, it’s also meetings with the teachers at school and coming up with, okay, well, this is our behavior plan. Here’s how we’re gonna, when this happens, this is what we all say. It has to be consistent.

And so so much of it is just getting the school and the parents on the same page. When we’re all willing to dump our energy into a solution, it almost always pans out. And in all honesty, what I have noticed is when I have a meeting with parents, sometimes it’s an overnight change. We don’t even do very much differently, but it’s that everyone came together. Now we’re all thinking about the same things in the same way. So all of our verbiage and how we speak to the children.

Anthony Codispoti (41:50.298)

Leah Rosenthal-Kambic (42:00.804)
all of it shifts just enough that the child can kind of settle down. But yeah, usually we just have to try to pinpoint what is causing it. And there’s almost always a reason that we can find and we work it out that way. So we always think about adjusting the behavior. We say control the environment, not the child. It’s not our job to control children, but maybe there’s ways that we can line up differently. Maybe there’s things that we can do.

bring them into the classroom first and have them help be the line leader and that helps them to come into the classroom easier. There’s all kinds of tools that we do, but bringing the parents on board is vitally important.

Anthony Codispoti (42:42.328)
Interesting. Lee, I’m going to ask you to put your business hat on for a moment because I’m curious to hear as you know business leaders you know we’re always we’ve got an eye to the bottom line you know there are obviously other things that are also important to running the business besides just profit but without a solid bottom line you know we’re not going to keep our doors open very often so I’m kind of curious to hear from you.

Maybe some interesting things that you’ve tried in the past to either lower costs or boost sales to help with that metric.

Leah Rosenthal-Kambic (43:15.332)
Yeah, that is always the challenge. Even though we have do a lot of volume, we have a lot of children coming in every month. Our overhead is ridiculous. So it is always a challenge. I guess, I don’t know how this sounds to the business community, but one of the things I’ve learned is just to really embrace the debt that I hold at this point. Before I was a business owner, I was like, I don’t want any credit card debt.

I don’t want any extra bills. And now I recognize that debt is part of the natural order. You have to borrow money to be able to continue to grow. And in our rapid growth period that we had, we’re still sort of leveling out from the last four years. But I had to get really comfortable thinking about knowing that the future is going to be brighter and knowing that…

while it’s very stressful feeling like, okay, I’ve got to borrow from Peter to pay Paul this month. At the end of the day, this is not forever. It is temporary. You know, we were very careful with our balance sheets, with our PNLs and we look over everything and make sure that there’s, you know, tweaks that can be made. But there aren’t a lot to be honest, you know, there’s an old saying in childcare, you can only thin the paint so much. And at the end of the day, you know, I’ve had to get

better about raising rates and about charging what is appropriate. We always kind of ran below the market and I felt like a better person for doing that. And then, you know, with COVID, everything changed. So many teachers left the field because they all got let go and furloughed at the beginning. Many of them became nannies. They were making $10 more an hour than preschools can afford to pay.

So when they came back into the business, a lot of the preschools now were paying a lot more money, which is what I think should be happening. But it’s forced us to have to charge more. It’s forced us to have to take a look at our fee structures and make sure that we’re not cutting off our nose to spite our face. I want to be a good human, but I also really want to be open. So, and be here for our families. Yep, absolutely.

Anthony Codispoti (45:25.56)
You gotta keep the doors open or everybody loses their jobs and the parents and the families don’t have a place to go. So yeah, it’s.

Leah Rosenthal-Kambic (45:32.228)
Yeah, and I look at it as, you know, we all help each other when the time is right. During COVID, I had parents who stepped up and paid for school that they were not allowed to even attend. And so where I can help parents, I will help them every time. And we and but the overall pricing has to be appropriate so that we can keep the doors open.

Anthony Codispoti (45:54.999)
Of course. Leah, you know, in a competitive job market like we’re in now, recruiting and retaining good employees can be really challenging. What’s something that you’ve tried and found success with?

Leah Rosenthal-Kambic (46:07.748)
You know, I think the care that you take with your employees is what makes all the difference in the world. I can’t say that we’re the highest paid center. I, I’m sure people pay more than I do and people definitely charge more than I do. but you know, it’s about getting to letting those teachers know that you care about them, showing up for them, supporting them, having their back. You know, my, my teachers know that if a parent got upset,

and was rude or pushy with a teacher that that parent’s gonna hear from Ms. Leah and I’m gonna contact them and let them know, we’re gonna need you to be a little more gentle with our staff. These people are very, very important to us and we just treat everyone very kindly and with a lot of love. It’s not for everyone. This…

field, this job, our centers, you know, our philosophy is not even for every teacher. For some people it’s like, my gosh, this is too messy, too wild, I don’t like it. But when we find those people who really get it and really understand our philosophy, we want to grow them as leaders, we want to retain them, we want to, you know, take good care of them, good benefits.

And my door is always open and they know I’m always available if anyone needs a one -on -one or I do those frequently to just have one -on -ones with the teachers. Just to check in and see what’s going on, what’s new with you and what do you need and how can I support you?

Anthony Codispoti (47:36.023)
Leo, what’s something you wish you could teach a younger version of yourself?

Leah Rosenthal-Kambic (47:41.092)
Ooh, that’s a really good question. I wish I had been more confident with what I know when I was younger. I think in the past I needed more validation from others and I’ve gotten to a point now where, you know, I really can lean in and trust my instincts. And I wish I’d had more years of that. I’m excited to see what the next bunch of years are like now that I’ve mastered that skill.

But to be able to really just trust myself and know that oftentimes my gut is right. And, you know, even if sometimes it doesn’t, people don’t agree, that’s okay. They don’t always have to think you’re right or agree with you or even like you. It’s about the work you’re doing and what you’re putting out there that matters.

Anthony Codispoti (48:29.75)
And so where did you sort of discover this confidence to listen to your gut, your inner self? Did that come from these retreats that you’ve been talking so glowingly about?

Leah Rosenthal-Kambic (48:40.292)
Yeah, I think it’s a combination of the retreats, going inside, learning more about myself and just that piece of self -care that I was not doing at all. And also COVID. Really COVID showed me that, you know what, if I could get through that, I can get through anything. If kid time could roll through this nightmare of a time, we will thrive through anything. And now, you know, we’ve gotten through the survival. Now we get to just thrive.

Anthony Codispoti (49:11.062)
What’s a fun fact most people wouldn’t know about you?

Leah Rosenthal-Kambic (49:15.492)
gosh, most people wouldn’t know. That’s a hard one, because I’m an open book. Fun fact most people don’t know about me is I’m a recovering people pleaser. I’m still working on it, but I’m pretty much almost on the other side of it. So I relate very well to people who give themselves away. And…

That’s something that I think because I figured out that wasn’t serving me, I want to spread that medicine to everyone and, you know, hey, let’s please ourselves too. And it’s okay to take care of yourself. It helps you to be better at taking care of the people around you when you’re comfortable.

Anthony Codispoti (49:55.829)
That’s great. What’s something you do for fun outside of work?

Leah Rosenthal-Kambic (49:59.652)
I love hanging out with my friends. I have a very tight group of women friends that just fill my soul and make me happy. And we, you know, just being with them is my favorite thing. I love to travel. I love little trips to Tahoe. We’re fortunate to live in a driving distance from Lake Tahoe. So yeah, just, you know, rest, relaxing, being outside and…

I’m learning how to meditate and to kind of just be, that’s my new journey I’m on now. So I’m enjoying that as well.

Anthony Codispoti (50:37.077)
Leah, are there any specific mentors, books, maybe other experiences outside of the retreats that have helped shape you or your professional career?

Leah Rosenthal-Kambic (50:47.012)
As an early childhood professional, definitely, there’s a woman who passed away several years ago. Her name was Bev Voss, B -O -S, and she was an incredible child care advocate, child care advocate. She ran a program out of her home, and it was all about hands -on play -based learning and letting the kids be themselves. So much of what I believe has come from.

her line of thinking. And what I learned from her is that you do have to stand up sometimes and advocate for what you’re doing. Sometimes parents don’t understand, well, why are my kids so messy? Explain to me why you let them do this painting activity this way. And you have to be able to back up what you do. So she was a huge inspiration to me and I’ll always be grateful to her. I never had the chance to meet her, but I did meet her son and I interviewed him years ago.

And that was amazing. So, Bev Boz is definitely high on that list for me.

Anthony Codispoti (51:48.98)
Very good. I just have one more question for you, but before I ask it, I want to do a couple of things. If you’re listening today and you like today’s content, please hit the subscribe, like, or share button on your favorite podcast app. Second thing is I want to tell people, what’s the best way to get in touch with you? How do we make that happen?

Leah Rosenthal-Kambic (52:06.084)
Sure, the best way to reach me is through my Instagram. It’s parent time, Ms. Leah. And you can DM me anytime. I’m always happy to chat with people. If you wanted to have a breakthrough session with me, I do a free call for your first call. So you can DM me. I’ll send you the link. There’s links in my bio for my retreat, for all of the podcasts. Everything that I’ve done is linked.

Anthony Codispoti (52:33.3)
A free first call, I might have to take you up on that. You’ve already dropped some golden nuggets on me today. I can’t wait to see what else would be behind the curtain there. Okay, so last question for you, Leah. I’m curious, how do you see the industry that you’re in evolving in the next five years? What do you think the big changes are that…

Leah Rosenthal-Kambic (52:35.908)

Leah Rosenthal-Kambic (52:43.364)
Love that.

Leah Rosenthal-Kambic (52:53.124)
Well, it’s interesting in California, they have been rolling out universal TK, which is for four year olds. So a lot of our four year olds that we’ve been servicing for all of these years are now going off to elementary schools for their pre -K, their year before kindergarten. TK stands for transitional kindergarten. So in California, it’s been a little scary for those of us in the field because our older group is starting to get smaller.

So for me, I’m feeling like the future is in babies and the younger children because, you know, it’s a little bit of a tough pill. I’m a very left leaning, leading heart person. I want everyone to have everything they can for free from the state and the government. But it’s been tough to lose our families because it’s really hard to compete with free. So, you know, we’re looking at just…

taking more younger kids. And if we open another center, it’ll probably be another infant and toddler or a younger preschool center. But you know, preschool is here to stay, we have working parents, there’s always going to be a need. And that’s one thing that I’ve been very fortunate is that kid time has felt like a very recession proof business. Even when people lose their job temporarily, a lot of them will say we’re not giving up our childcare because we’re not going back on a list of 200 waiting for a spot again.

So we need more centers. There needs to be more good quality people that are willing to do this work. It’s not easy, but it is so rewarding. And I’m a big advocate for people going to school, getting their early childhood education, and making their way into the field if that feels like what they love to do.

Anthony Codispoti (54:41.395)
And so these TK centers that are offered by the state, are these all -day programs or are there for more limited hours?

Leah Rosenthal-Kambic (54:50.564)
Most of them are three hours a day, which is gets tricky for parents, but, you know, then they’ll, they’ll go to the afterschool care on the campus if there’s space. So that’s been a little bit of a, complicated dynamic week. There’s a lot of people will go, you know, plan to go to TK and then find out, wait, I don’t have wraparound care. I’m only covered from nine to 12 or eight to 11. So, we’ve started offering a full day transitional kindergarten class at one of our sites.

to help those that just aren’t able to bridge that gap. It’s tough, it’s really tough out there for parents these days.

Anthony Codispoti (55:26.803)
Well, Leah, I want to be the first one to thank you so much for taking the time to share your story with us today. I really appreciate it.

Leah Rosenthal-Kambic (55:34.756)
You’re so welcome. Thank you so much for giving me this opportunity. It was really fun. I appreciate it.

Anthony Codispoti (55:40.403)
Absolutely. Folks, that’s a wrap on another episode of the Inspired Stories podcast. Thanks for learning with us today.