FARMINGTON - The owner of Cornerstone Preschool and Childcare cannot recall a time in her life when she did not connect well with children.

Becky LaBeau, the center's director, welcomed flocks of parents and community members during an open house Oct. 27 at her new small business located at 305 Elm St.

"Honestly, I do not remember when I did not have a heart for children, my favorite movies are still 'Mary Poppins' and 'Annie' although I strive to be like Mary Poppins and not Miss Hannigan," LaBeau said smiling.

As a teenager, LaBeau began babysitting regularly for family and neighbors and little did she know, her love and understanding for children would lead her down a career path. Today she is looking forward to what she believes will be a rewarding career.

"I just love to learn to about their little conversations, and I love to snuggle the babies and I love to be a part something that is bigger than myself," LaBeau added. "Our mission is to provide each child with the building blocks necessary to develop a strong foundation for a successful future."

LaBeau, 39, brings 20 years of child care experience. She worked 10 years in day care centers and then opened a home day care in 2008.

Cornerstone has been years in the making as she took her time to search out the proper place for the business.

"When I stumbled along on this spot in the downtown, everything lined up," LaBeau said.

Proud to be a mother of two children, her daughter Grace, 10, and son, Bennett, 7, LaBeau makes a home in Farmington with her husband Tim.

"I was a mother of a 10-month-old when I started my own in-home day care," she said. "It has been my dream for the last half decade and I guess it was my dream for even longer but I didn't know it was my dream. Now I can just feel the joy that I am here and this is where I am supposed to be."

LaBeau said Cornerstone will offer families the best aspects of a warm and personal in-home day care while pairing it with the amenities of a smaller caring staff who work at a private day care.

When it came to naming her preschool, LaBeau took care to come up with the perfect name.

"My philosophy has always been when it comes to children and building their character, confidence, self-esteem and education, I know it really starts in the early years," LaBeau said. "These are the most important pieces and are truly the foundation of anything we are building, and that cornerstone symbolizes the building and the foundation of their lives."

The new preschool is nearly 5,000 square feet with a secured entrance and an outdoor play area that will house two separate playsets that will be fenced off from the parking lot and Elm Street.

Classroom spaces are bright with big windows and large rooms painted with childlike purple and apple green walls and are all outfitted with educational materials designed for children to thrive.

The center encompasses a large kitchen to prepare snacks and make breakfast and lunch. Staff will deliver meals on carts to classrooms. "A lot of us will have a few hats to wear and I have an amazing staff," LaBeau said.

She is fortunate to have worked with her preschool staff alongside children for many years.

The building is designed with a large, indoor gym to accommodate children's gross motor skills play. Children can ride on indoor scooters or bounce around on toys. Older kids can play with basketball hoops or a balance beam.

"We are in the works and have a little collaboration with Synergy Dance Studio," LaBeau said. The details are still being ironed out, but she is excited about this partnership and opportunities for children to have fun exploring dance.

During the three warmer seasons, center staff can escort children safely to play at local parks or visit the local library down the street.

"It will be good to grow together like our tagline says and that is how I feel," she said.

Cornerstone aims to become a nurturing place where children can learn and play while parents are away.

"My favorite saying is by Maya Angelou who said, 'Do the best you can until you know better, and then when you know better, do better,' and that is my philosophy of life," LaBeau said.

Cornerstone Preschool and Childcare plans to open its doors Monday, Nov. 5, pending a few inspections. The center will be licensed for up to 80 babies, toddlers and school aged-children.