In early July, Kids’ Place made the move from the Chebeague Recreation Center, where the daycare facility has operated for the past two years, to its very own building next door.

The interior of the leased portable classroom was customized to accommodate the specific needs of Kids’ Place. A spacious playroom doubles as a kitchen with a tiny table sitting under the window, surrounded by yellow, knee-high chairs. A large, kid-friendly bathroom is handy. A separate napping room, painted periwinkle blue, features a noise machine that transports the toddlers to sleep-appropriately enough-with the sound of soothing surf. Adjacent to the napping room is a toddler playroom with soft carpets and sunny yellow walls.

Previous to the move, Kids’ Place occupied the Teen Room at the Chebeague Recreation Center. That room was not only small, but at the end of each day the Kids’ Place staff had to break down the cribs and pack up all the toys to make room for teen programs that evening.

The new building gives Kids’ Place its own space-and also more space. Kids’ Place is now licensed to care for up to 20 children, whereas the old limit was 12, meaning sometimes children had to be turned away. That has also allowed for seasonal fluctuations. This summer, 13 island children plus six summer visitors utilized Kids’ Place services.

Although the two-year occupancy of the Teen Room was inconvenient, it allowed island parents to test out the concept of a daycare center before any major investments were made in a new facility, according to Vicki Todd, one of the founding mothers of Kids’ Place. But demand was there, and the decision was made to move ahead with fund-raising for the new building. As of this month, just over $120,000 has been raised for the facility and operating costs.

Todd, who works at the Chebeague Island Boat Yard and its Niblic coffee and gift shop, believes that the daycare is a vital necessity for working parents. Without it, she says “our family would have to make some hard decisions about living on the island.”

The dream of an island daycare has been on Chebeague’s wish list for decades, but it wasn’t until 2007 that talk began to get serious. In the spring of that year a group of Chebeague Island residents visited North Haven. Todd was among them.

The group was given tours of the school, island and community center where North Haven’s Laugh and Learn Preschool is housed. “That’s what gave me the most inspiration,” says Todd. Todd worked closely with Kelley Rich, the executive director of the Chebeague Recreation Center and a young mother herself, fundraising and organizing for the daycare.

Chebeague and North Haven are not the only Maine islands with daycare facilities. Peaks Island has been running the Peaks Island Children’s workshop since 1972. The workshop provides childcare, preschool, afterschool care and summer programs for children from infants to 12-year-olds.

A month after Kids’ Place welcomed its first child in 2008, Vinalhaven opened the doors to its own daycare, Island Village Childcare. Housed in the “Yellow Schoolhouse,” as it is known locally, IVC aims to provide affordable childcare to island families.

All of these island daycare facilities were created by community members like Todd and Rich, so that they and their neighbors could have reliable childcare. At Kids’ Place, Islander Paige Boisvert is the primary caregiver, with help from Lori Rich and Beth Putnam, also island mothers.

For island parents like Suzanne and Aaron Rugh, who both work full time on the mainland, Kids’ Place is a second home for their children. The Rughs think highly of the Kids’ Place staff. “It’s very reassuring knowing your child is so loved when you’re not with them,” says Suzanne Rugh.

A diverse group of working parents rely on Kids’ Place, with professions ranging from teachers and lobstermen to a Chebeague ferry captain and the local plumber.

Kristin Westra, who teaches at Chebeague’s elementary school, commutes from North Yarmouth every morning with her two-year old daughter Sophie, who has been going to Kids’ Place since she was an infant. Westra says bringing Sophie with her to Chebeague works very well because daycare facilities on the mainland don’t open early enough for her to catch the 7 a.m. ferry in time to get to her teaching job.

“I feel really comfortable leaving her there each day,” says Westra.

Boisvert enjoys working with the all the kids and loves the new building. “The biggest problem is having my own kids here,” says Boisvert of her school-aged son and daughter as they vie with the other kids for her attention.

The kids at Kids’ Place participate in a variety of activates throughout the day. They read books, play games, do arts and crafts, and play outside in the Kids’ Place sandbox or on the school’s playground just next door.

At the current rate, Kids’ Place is growing just as fast as the kids it cares for, and it doesn’t appear to be slowing down. Todd sees “exciting possibilities” in the future of Kids’ Place. Next on her wish list is a preschool program for island kids.

Julia Maine is a resident of Chebeague and a participant in The Working Waterfront’s summer student writing program.