Preschool FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions about Hartley Nature Preschool:

How long has HNP been operating?

HNP opened in September 2014 and we are celebrating 10 years of connecting preschoolers to nature in the fall of 2024!

What outdoor gear does my child need for HNP?

Check out the HNP Gear Guide to see a checklist of the gear your nature preschooler will need to play outdoors in all seasons. More detailed information, including tips for gear, can be found in the Parent Handbook.

Do you really go outside every day?

Yes! The focus of our program is free play in the outdoors. We are outside every day, including in the rain, snow, and cold. The only time we don’t go outside is if there is lightning and thunder. We do go outside every day in the winter; we use the NOAA wind chill chart and any wind chill warnings and advisories to guide our maximum amount of time outdoors in the winter. We do follow ISD 709 for severe weather cancellations such as blizzards or extreme cold.

How much time does each class spend outdoors each day?

The amount of outdoor and indoor time varies day to day as teachers meet the needs of the children and respond to the weather. Half day classes are 100% outdoors on some days, especially in the fall and spring. When it gets too cold to take mittens off for snack time we transition to indoor snack time. This also gives children a chance to participate in indoor play and for an indoor bathroom break. Full day classes are outdoors for as much of the day as possible; lunch and rest time take place indoors.

Do you offer early care and after care?

We do not offer early or after care at this time. See our website for the start and end times for specific classes.

When does the preschool operate?

The school dates for 2024-25 are: Sept 3, 2024-May 29, 2025. We follow ISD 709 for severe weather closures. We follow the ISD 709 calendar for school breaks, but our calendar is not exactly the same as ISD 709. Families receive the calendar for the upcoming preschool year in the enrollment packet and it is available on our website.

Inclusion at Hartley Nature Center

All are welcome at Hartley. Please see Hartley’s Nature Center’s inclusion policy for more information.

Do you assess children?

As a licensed child care center we are required to provide parent/teacher conferences twice a year and to use an assessment tool. Our assessment tool is Teaching Strategies Gold. We like this tool because it allows us to authentically assess children’s development and learning both indoors and outside and because it shows that growth and development are a spectrum. There is not one right place for a child to be–every child develops at their own pace and has unique strengths and areas of growth. Completing the assessment helps the teachers get to know your child better so that we can be ready to support your child. The assessment is not a test to see if your child is ready for kindergarten.

Will my child be ready for kindergarten?

We know this is a very common concern for families of young children and for families who are considering a nature preschool program. The short answer is, yes, the research shows that children who attend nature preschool programs will be as prepared to be successful learners as as their peers who attend other high quality early learning programs. According to MDE, “when children are healthy, valued, and thriving, they are set up for successful learning in school and beyond.” Learn more and find links to the research on our Curriculum and Learning page.

Why do you charge a deposit to secure a preschool placement?

HNP requires a mandatory deposit in the springtime, or upon enrollment for mid-year starts, in order to determine our final class rosters.  Your deposit represents your commitment to the preschool and secures your child’s spot. The deposit is non-refundable regardless of attendance and is not refunded if your family decides to withdraw at any point after your spot is secured.

Financial help for preschool

Scholarships are available to help families pay for preschool. We also accept County Child Care Assistance and state Early Learning Scholarships. Please see our scholarship page for more information on applying for a scholarship.

Are there additional fees for HNP?

There are no supply fees for HNP. To be eligible to attend preschool, your family must have a current HNC membership at the $50 level or above by your child’s first day of preschool. You can purchase a membership on our payment system. Families that receive ELS, CCAP, or HNC scholarship funds are eligible for a 1/2 price scholarship membership rate. Contact for more information on scholarship memberships. HNP does charge a late fee for late pick ups and a late fee for tuition payments that are past due.

Do you offer mid-year starts?

Yes, we offer mid-year starts when there are openings. Applications for children who are not 3 by Sept. 1, 2024 will automatically be added to the waiting list for a possible mid-year start once the child is three AND if there is an opening. After the enrollment lottery has been conducted a waiting list application will also be available on our website. Submit a waiting list application and $25 waiting list application fee to be added to the waiting list for a mid-year start. 

Please note that children are prioritized in the following order for a mid-year full-day opening:

  • Staff children
  • 4 and 5 year old children
  • Children who are at least 39 months old at the mid-year start date
  • Children who have recently turned three

Can I get on a waiting list for a future school year?

No, we do not accept waiting list applications for future school years. Enrollment is conducted on a lottery basis. The lottery systems makes enrollment more fair and simple for all families. Families can submit a waiting list application for a current school year, but that application will be for the current school year and will not carry over to the next school year. All families will still need to submit an application for enrollment every year.

How does toileting outdoors work?

With a large amount of our day spent outdoors, it is simply not always possible to get children to an indoor bathroom facility. Instead, we will often have children do a “nature potty.” Nature potty skills are life skills for children that grow up in northern MN! Children can stand up or use our on-the-go potty seat, as pictured here, which provides efficient and comfortable potty breaks while outdoors. A nature potty is always done away from the group for privacy. Children are offered toilet paper for wiping. The child and adult use hand sanitizer after using the potty and will wash their hands upon return to the building. If a child is uncomfortable or unable to use the potty outdoors, we will do our best to get a child back to the building, but indoor toileting facilities are not always available. If your child isn’t used to going potty outside, you probably want to practice before they start preschool! You can bring a toddler potty outside or do have the child do a nature pee standing, squatting, holding onto a tree or an adult’s hands for support.

I see that children must be potty trained by Sept. 1 to enroll. What does it mean to be potty trained?

A class session at HNP is rigorous and involves time outdoors every day in all weather including the rain, snow, and cold. It is important for a child’s safety, comfort, and learning that they are potty trained. This means a child can:

  • Push down and pull up their own pants and/or underwear regularly at home
  • Communicate with an adult when they need to go to the bathroom
  • Poop and pee in a toilet/potty chair at home during the day
  • Function in public without diapers during the day

HNP teachers are here to:

  • Help children get onto and off of the toilet
  • Help with wiping
  • Help a child clean up and change after an accident (accidents are a normal part of the potty learning process!)
  • Help a child learn to take regular potty breaks and give reminders/prompts about going potty 

Diapers are not allowed at HNP. Pull ups are not allowed in full day classes. Pull ups may be allowed on a case by case basis for a short time at the beginning of the year for a child in 1/2 day who is very close to being fully potty trained. Please contact the director to discuss your specific situation if you hope to send a 1/2 day child in pull ups for a short time at the beginning of the school year. In this situation parents and teachers would work together to make a timeline for developing toileting skills at preschool and attending preschool without a pull up.

It is normal for children to regress a bit with potty learning when they start a new preschool program; your child might have some accidents at home or at school after starting preschool. It can take some time for some children to be comfortable toileting with new adults and in a new setting. It might also be a new experience for children to go potty outside or to use the Hartley bathrooms. We strongly recommend stopping by Hartley in the weeks leading up to the start of school to practice using the indoor Hartley bathrooms! Some children think the automatic flush toilets are loud and scary; every toilet has a cover for the sensor so that it won’t flush unexpectedly.

Looking for help with the potty learning process? We recommend the potty learning resources at Good Inside.

Immunization Requirements for Preschool

According to MN state law, a child cannot enroll in child care until they have received the minimum shots required by law or filed a medical or non-medical exemption. HNP must have records on file showing that each preschooler has been  immunized against the following diseases or has a notorized medical or non-medical exemption: diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, polio, measles, mumps, rubella, Hib (Haemophilus influenzae type b), hepatitis A and B, chickenpox (varicella), and pneumococcal disease. Rotavirus and flu vaccines are recommended for all infants and young children, but are not required. COVID-19 vaccines are recommended for all eligible individuals, but are not required by the state of MN for child care enrollment at this time.

Learn more about each vaccine and why it is important:

MN Department of Health Immunization Information Page for Parents: