Bobbie Penney and her daughter with the Tiny Tots Learning Center sign.
By ROSELYNN YAZZIE
LEWISTON — Shoshone-Bannock tribal member, Bobbie Penney, is the owner of the Tiny Tots Learning Center, LLC. Since 2014 she’s been working to expand her business in rural communities that serve a high population of tribal communities in northern Idaho and is planning to open a site in Fort Hall.
The first in home Tiny Tots daycare was established in Lapwai and the following year in 2015 they moved into a 1,500 square foot building. She relocated to her next site goal, which was Kamiah in 2018 and started an in-home facility. In 2020 they purchased a 3,000 square foot building. In 2021 they moved to Lewiston, due to family circumstances, and opened a third site in their home where they remain in operation.
The goal of Tiny Tots Early Learning Facility is to give every child a chance to develop an interest in learning. To accomplish this, they strive to have a well-trained, engaging and dedicated team early childhood educators; provide environments that are safe and provide challenging and fun activities for all ages; create opportunities for families to engage in meaningful language learning and community action projects.
Penney explained she applied for the Idaho Workforce Expansion grant for 2023-2024 and was awarded $235,000. The first time she applied she was denied, but the second time it went through due to the expansion to Fort Hall.
She explained, “Our focus has been on culture and language.” Adding they incorporate the Nimiipuu culture and language in their play space learning. They also take students to visit historical and sacred sites.
She’d eventually like to build an outdoor learning center.
Tiny Tots Learning Center staff with children.
Penney’s background is in teaching. She attended Lewis-Clark State College for elementary education and her Master’s at University of Idaho. She loves working with kids. She also has a passion for creating more opportunities for the kids, giving back to the community and instilling knowledge of language and culture. She also wants to see others become entrepreneurs.
Tiny Tots mission is to increase their capacity to care for children in Idaho and help see more parents entering the workforce. The grant would help improve their programs and provide more work opportunities for anyone seeking a new career or career change.
The idea for the Fort Hall site was brought up before the pandemic, by family members in the area who saw a need for the service. Plans were on pause until things got back to normal. In the meantime she applied for grants to keep her business afloat.
Penney said she’s always been good doing startups and is quick to get them going. It all depends on finding the space, meeting the state requirements for licensing and getting the staffing in line. So far, she’s looked at a few buildings to lease in Fort Hall but hasn't finalized anything yet. Ideally, she would like a location that’s accessible and centrally located.
For now, she’s working to find a pool of teachers and childcare providers who are willing to be a part of the team and who will take part in training to get their teaching certificates in their designated age groups.
She also wants to do more market research to be able to see what the needs are specifically in the community. She likes the input of community as she feels bringing more people in brings in more ideas.
Planned hours for the Fort Hall facility will be from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. An enrollment fee of $25 will need to be charged, in addition to filing out an enrollment packet and signing a contract agreement for month to month services, ICCP and CCDF will be accepted. She foresees having 10-20 kids depending on the space available from ages 0 to 6 years old. The age limits may be extended in the summer time.
Penney wants to create a safe place for children, that has people who care about them who will give them experiences they’re going to remember throughout their whole life.
For more information contact Bobbie Penney at 208-816-1737 or email email@example.com.