Hilltop Christian Nursery School: A Hidden Gem in Morris County | Morris Bernards Moms

Selecting a preschool can be scary, especially for first time parents. When researching which school is the right fit for your family, don’t be afraid to ask questions, take a tour and talk to current and past families of that school. We sat down with Victoria Legacki, Director of Hilltop Christian Nursery School on the importance of play based learning and what sets HCNS apart from other preschools in our area. Read our interview below and be sure to schedule a tour to see if they are the perfect preschool for you and your family.

Can you tell us a little about Hilltop Christian Nursery School?
Hilltop Christian Nursery School (HCNS) is a hidden gem for children and families in Morris County. We are a play-based nursery school following the belief that children learn best when engaged in various types of play based learning. Our school opened its doors in 1994 under the guidance of Hilltop Presbyterian Church.

What sets you apart from other preschools in the area?
Our mindset that your children are precious jewels to be nurtured, loved and challenged sets us apart from other preschools. We aren’t looking at our school day with eyes only on a curriculum but rather looking at the faces of your children and molding our day around their learning and developmental needs. Our team of experienced teachers know and love their students as if they were their own.

As a Christian school, we are fortunate to be able to fully celebrate all holidays. Our Christmas pageant is known to be the best holiday show in town! We also love our visit from Santa and his special helper elf. In the spring, the children are always thrilled to have a visit from the Easter Bunny and share in their class egg hunts. Sharing these holidays with our classrooms, along with our chapel time, creates a culture of faith for our students.

In addition, the longevity of our school’s presence has us well rooted in the community in a way no other local school can compare. Our teachers, many of which have been here for over 20 years, create an atmosphere of learning, caring, fun and love. When you walk through our doors you become part of the HCNS school family and you will feel the warm welcome.

What are the benefits of play based learning?
Fred “Mr.” Rogers could not have said it better, “Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children, play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood.” At Hilltop Christian Nursery School we use a collection of play methods to promote growth and learning. When observing our classrooms you will notice free play which promotes independence, initiative, creativity and imagination. Our teachers pull small groups for guided play activities around light tables, puzzles and games which teaches children to take turns, work in small groups to collaborate with their peers. In these guided play centers, teachers encourage vocabulary development, trial and error exporations, predictions and discussions. The collective approach to free play, guided play and teacher driven learning centers gives children the opportunity to grow across multiple avenues at their own pace.

Do you offer programs to get children prepared for Kindergarten?
All of our preschool classes are modeled with the mindset to prepare children for kindergarten. Our youngest learners in the 2 ½ program develop their stamina for circle time, taking turns and building hand strength through play. As they progress into the threes we continue to build on early learning skills through small group work, projects and games. Our teachers expose the children to letters and numbers while building their hand strength for future writing. This class is the perfect stepping stone into our Pre-K four and five year old class. Our Pre-K students use the Handwriting Without Tears curriculum to formally begin writing their letters. They have a thematic curriculum which develops over the school year to cover letter names and sounds, number concepts, pre-reading skills, fine and gross motor development.

For families looking to take their children a step further as a four or five year old, we offer our Friday Kindergarten Prep program. Kindergarten Prep classes use the foundational skills laid out in our Mon-Thurs class to enrich learning with a focus on reading and number studies. Kindergarten Prep children leave each week with a sight word book, a visit from a letter puppet and multiple enrichment activities completed in school to give them a leg up on their academic growth. The kindergarten teachers at Mendham Township Elementary School and Hilltop Elementary School in Mendham Borough report to us annually that our students are some of the most prepared children entering their classrooms. When you send your children to HCNS you can rest assured they will develop emotionally, academically, spiritually and socially.

How does the application process work?
Our registration process begins in February. Applicants submit their registration forms with a non-refundable $75 application fee. We use a lottery system to process all applications. Applications are processed in this order, 1) current HCNS families, 2) active church member’s families, 3) alumni families and 4) new school families. Preference is not given to families in the order in which their application is received. Every effort is made to place children in the first choice of school days and confirmation of acceptance is sent out by the end of February. Many classes will have wait lists, but we do encourage you to reach out to the school at any time if you are interested in enrolling or taking a school tour.

Can we pick and choose days for our child to attend, or do they have to attend all five days?
HCNS is not a daycare and has set hours for classroom time based on the age of their children. Our 2 ½ year olds come two mornings a week. Our three year old children come three mornings a week and our four and five year old children have the choice of four or five mornings. We offer afternoon enrichment classes “a la carte” on Monday-Friday afternoon from 11:30-3:00 for those families looking to extend their child’s day. We also offer Early Play hours from 8:30-9:00 am for families needing an earlier start to their day.

Are there ways for parents to be more involved in the school to get to know other families?
One of the reasons that HCNS has such a local following is the culture and community we create for our families. Our Parent Advisory Board meets monthly to oversee our school social and fundraising events. Our social calendar includes a September, New Mom’s Night Out, a fall parent social, a winter Family Fun Night and a formal spring fundraiser. In addition, each class has room mothers who come in throughout the year and help oversee class projects such as stuffing the Easter eggs for our class egg hunts and creating class pottery pieces for our fundraiser. Our four and five year old classes invite their Dads or special family member to come to school for a morning in February for our annual, “Donuts with Dad” day and our moms are invited to join in May for an elegant Mother’s Day Tea. The hallways, playdates and social events at HCNS are the building blocks for lifetime friendships for the children and their parents. We hear over and over again, we met our best friends in preschool right after moving to town.

Is there anything else we should know about HCNS?
We love welcoming new families into the HCNS family. HCNS is a special place and we welcome anyone interested to reach out and schedule a tour…


This article was done in partnership with Hilltop Christian Nursery School. To learn more about HCNS or to schedule a tour, visit their website and be sure to follow them on social media below:

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