Mar 01, 2024

Child Care Champion: 'I love their children like my own'

Posted Mar 01, 2024 11:01 AM
Tia Miller of Hays, January Child Care Champion, with her son and daughter. Courtesy photo
Tia Miller of Hays, January Child Care Champion, with her son and daughter. Courtesy photo

Hays Post

Tia Miller, child care provider, said she loves to do crafts with the children in her care, have neon dance parties, and play in the water in the summertime.

Miller, 27, owner of Miles of Smiles Day Care in Hays, has been an in-home child care provider since 2018.

She was nominated by Polly Pfeifer as January's Child Care Champion.

"She goes above and beyond to keep the kiddos safe while giving them great experiences in her care!" Pfeifer said.

Millers started working in early childhood education right out of high school in the Early Childhood Connections program. She worked there for three years and earned her Child Development Associates.

"Right out of high school I knew that's what I wanted to do," she said.

She has always had the goal of being an in-home child care provider.

"I want to be able to raise my own kids but also share my passion with other people's children," Miller said. "It's nice to be your own boss, and I love seeing all the kids hit their different milestones. You get attached to the kids. I don't know what else I would see myself doing."

Child care is a family affair for Miller. Her sister is also a provider in Hays and so was her aunt. 

Miller focuses on preparing children for kindergarten, including working on fine and gross motor skills and recognizing their names. She also teaches the children sign language.

Miller's  3-year-old son is autistic and nonverbal. She and her family have been learning sign language so they can communicate with him. 

Now all the child care kids sign, Miller said.

"Even with the little ones, 12 to 18 months, who don't have their language, they can sign to let me know. It has been beneficial to all of us," she said.

One of the children's favorite activities is dance parties. Miller closes the curtains, cranks the music, turns on laser lights and the kids dance out all their energy before nap time.

Miller said she loves maintaining friendships with the children and families she has had in day care. 

"I'm still super close to the families even after the kiddos graduate," she said. "[I like] watching the kids grow."

She said she gets to be the one steady person in these children's lives who is always there.

"I let them know they can always be comfortable around me and to not be scared," she said. 

As a mom, she never wants the parents who use her child care to worry about their kids.

"I want them to know their child is safe with me and that they are loved," Miller said. "I want them to know I love their children like my own."

Miller sees herself as a very empathic person and she tries to teach that to the children in her care. Her family has four cats and two dogs. She teaches the children to care for the animals and be gentle with them.

"I have a little girl and the first thing she wants to see is the kitties," Miller said. "It teaches them to be gentle and caretakers."

Miller tries to help the small children learn about their feelings and how to appropriately deal with them when they are mad or sad.

Miller said one of the most challenging aspects of being a child care provider is arranging time off. She said it is very difficult to find substitutes.

Her husband, who is licensed, works as a substitute but she is forced to close when, in some instances, the family has to go out of town. She said she tries to give her family as much notice as possible when she has to close.

Miller said child care is exhausting but rewarding.

"A lot of people don't realize how exhausting this job is physically and mentally," she said. "I'm constantly living in a world of overstimulation. It's constant chaos."

She urged people to appreciate their day care providers. 

"We are a big part of their life," she said. "We are what keeps them being able to work and continue to live the life they want."

To nominate a Child Care Champion from Ellis County, click here.