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Anna's Bananas: Opening the doors on a dream

Anna's Bananas day care opens in Farmington.

Walking through the front door of Anna's Bananas Daycare & Preschool is a little like walking through into a northern Minnesota lodge.

Actually, strike that. It's a lot like walking into a lodge.

There's wood everywhere in the entry of the new facility on Highway 3. There's a chandelier made of antlers, and plush animal heads hang on the wall. In a corner made up like a stone mantel a giant flat-screen TV shows a continuous loop of flickering flames.

About the only thing that breaks the illusion is the bank of security monitors.

It's a high-tech north woods lodge.

"I've had parents say, 'The only thing you're missing is a room to check in and a waterslide,'" said Anna Achtenberg, the daycare center's owner and the woman who put years of planning and dreaming into creating just this look.

The lodge look continues throughout the 15,000-square-foot building. The rooms are decorated in earth tones.

There are skis on the wall and awnings over the interior windows bear the names of made-up businesses to give the hallways the look of a mountain village. Rooms for each age group are named after woodland critters. The older the kids, the bigger the animals -- from bunnies to bears.

This is Achtenberg's third daycare center in Farmington. She started in 1999 in a strip mall on Highway 3, then moved to the former Trinity Hospital. She's also opened an Anna's Bananas in Burnsville. Everything she learned running those centers went into designing her new facility, which opened March 21. She measured every one of the kids who attended her most recent facility and used the averages of those heights to plan the sizes of sinks and toilets in each room. Soap and towel dispensers are automatic, so kids can operate them on their own.

"They can be independent even at the age of 2," Achtenberg said.

One month in, Achtenberg is confident she's thought of everything. She's got a separate room for art and a studio for dance, where students can take classes in ballet, tap, jazz and hip-hop. There are two gyms, both with ceilings as tall as city regulations will allow. There are windows everywhere, set low in the wall so even the littlest kids can look out. There's even a four-season porch where kids will be able to swing and play when the weather turns bad.

All of the cabinets and lockers were custom-built by Achtenberg's brother-in-law.

Outside, there are three separate playgrounds, including one with perhaps the daycare's most popular feature, a large green dragon that snakes in and out of the ground.

"That dragon has enrolled more kids than the building itself," Achtenberg said.

Achtenberg has also added a curriculum coordinator responsible for preparing lessons on art, science music and even sign language for students at all levels.

"I'm settling for nothing less than the best, and this is the best," Achtenberg said.

Talking about it all, it's clear Achtenberg is excited about what she's created. She finds new things to love about the building every time she walks through.

The kids seem to love the new building, too. That's music to Achtenberg's ears -- literally.

"I can sit in my office and I can hear the sounds and the laughter of the kids," Achtenberg said. "It's like Christmas every day."

Achtenberg will hold an open house from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. May 9 at the new building.