Meeting the Needs of Island Families Since 1974 

Founded by a group of parents in 1974, the Children's Education Center of the Islands is a nonprofit school for children ages 12 months through 5 years.

Our five-acre campus is located at 350 Casa Ybel Road, between the Casa Ybel Resort and Middle Gulf Drive, on Sanibel Island.

We know your child is unique

Our school is designed so that your child is actively involved in his or her own learning and has ample time to pursue individual interests and curiosities. Separate learning centers give your child hands-on experience in math, science and language arts- through the use of music, art, blocks and other manipulatives, books, and dramatic play. 

Every day is exciting and stimulating

Each day includes music, developmentally appropriate classroom activities, story time, plenty of free time to explore in the learning centers and lots of time for outdoor play. There are available extracurricular weekly activities such as arts and crafts, dance, sign language and yoga. We also invite informative special guests such as Ding Darling spokespeople, our island children's librarian and other professionals of interest who stop in to visit throughout the year. Our morning preschool program runs from 7:30am to 1:00pm, and there is also a separate afternoon program which runs until 5:30pm. 

The personal & educational attention your child needs & deserves

Our classes are limited to no more than ten students per teacher. Our college-educated staff combines a wealth of early childhood experience with continuous professional development, and meets regularly to ensure the best environment for your child. 

Parent and community partners

Parental participation in our school is vital to our children's success. Parents provide our daily snacks, run and staff annual fund raising events, serve on our board and much more. The school also enjoys the generous support of the Sanibel and Captiva business and civic communities.

The Rhythm of the Day at CECI’s Nature Preschool

We value spontaneity and take advantage of teachable moments. We’re also big on routine. Young children feel secure with structure and they benefit from knowing what will happen next. At the Children’s Education Center of the Islands, a nature preschool, we follow a loose schedule interspersed with predictable events throughout the day, such as snack and group experiences.

A Peek Inside Our Daily Routine

ARRIVAL: between 7:30-9:00, Class begins each day inside the Children’s Education Center of the Islands big room. Adults dropping off their students take the children inside to sign them in for the day, and to assist in putting away backpacks and extra clothes. Students then participate in one of the morning activities.

GROUP MEETING: 9:00, Students join in conversation, engage in music and movement activities, listen to stories, sing songs and participate in other whole-group activities.

MORNING SNACK: 9:15, Teachers and students eat a healthy snack together outdoors – prepared by one of our parents.

OUTDOOR FREE CHOICE EXPLORATION: 9:15-10:30, Students begin their daily outdoor exploration with at least 60 minutes of uninterrupted time. Activities may include hiking the trails, creating and implementing games with their friends, making mud pies.

SMALL GROUP: 10:30/11:00, Teacher-directed activities occur in small groups, giving students the chance to ask more questions and allowing teachers to evaluate each child’s needs and progress. This setting also gives teachers the opportunity to focus on a particular skill set, promoting individualized learning.

LUNCH: 12:00, Students gather together to enjoy healthy lunches they bring from home. The Children’s Education Center of the Islands teaches good table manners and healthy eating choices.

REST TIME: 1:10, Students may rest each day after lunch. We provide a resting mat and children must bring a crib size sheet and a blanket that will fit into their individual cubbies.

AFTERNOON SNACK: 3:30, This is generally a grab-n-go snack, easily taken outdoors.

OUTDOOR PLAY: 4:00, Students enjoy supervised, unstructured play time in the Nature Playscape each afternoon.

ENDING GROUP MEETING: 5:00, Students and teachers gather on the carpet to reflect on the day’s activities and to say goodbye before heading home.

“Play is the work of the child.” – Marie Montesorri

Our History

1974: The school was founded. A group of Sanibel parents founded the Children's Education Center of the Islands in June of 1974. Parents of three and four year olds wanted their children to have group social activities and preparing for kindergarten. They designed a self-sustaining parent co-op and obtained use of the old Bailey's General Store, then still on the bay at the end of Bailey Road (now restored and part of the Sanibel Historical Village)

1980: The move to Casa Ybel. The school moved to Casa Ybel Road in 1980. The Sanibel Lions Club and the Bailey family donated the five acres of land and the Casa Ybel Resort donated two guest cottages, which were then joined together to create our main building.

1992: 2-year-old programs added. Sanibel's Island Preschool lost the use of its building during the summer of 1992. Since the Children's Education Center had always provided articulation and support for the Island Preschool, we decided to bring its 2-year-old program into our curriculum.

1997: Second building added. We added our second building in June 1997. Thompson Hall was originally an island home that was donated to the school in 1993. The building was named after Larry Thompson and his wife, Kathie, our Board President during the rehabilitation process. Today this building houses our Pre-K classes.

2019: Our 45th year! The Children's Education Center is proudly "celebrating 45 years of dedication to education" as of June 2019.