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Owner of Conev's Cradle draws inspiration overseas

WILLOWBROOK – It was the difference in school systems in the U.S. and Europe that caught Jana Conev's attention.

"I really wanted to get to the bottom of who was doing the better job," Conev said about her most recent trip abroad.

The owner of Conev's Cradle Infantcare, Inc., an equal-opportunity state-licensed child care home in Willowbrook, recently paid a visit to the Czech Republic to visit four schools.

She has been to the country numerous times, as she still has friends and family there, but this trip was more so for business. She wanted to see what the differences were in schools specifically to gauge if she could incorporate anything into her own daycare.

This was Conev's second time visiting, the first since 2001, that was set with a purpose to compare schools. Conev landed May 10 in Prague and five days later, she visited Stredisko Sluzeb pro Rodice a Deti-Jesle. Conev got to see completely remodeled school kitchens and cafeterias.

"When you walk into the preschools, the thing that knocks your socks right across the room is the incredible aroma," she said.

She also was astounded by the manners and etiquette of the children. She said kids as young as 4 and 5 years old were using a knife and fork, eating off plates.

"They were eating like little adults," she said. "They were very polite and quiet at the table."

Conev, who prides her daycare on nutritional home-cooked meals, said she will definitely begin utilizing more table manners, serving meals on plates and teaching the kids to fill up their forks with all the food on their plates.

"This is the European way of eating where your mouth gets a party with each spoonful," she said. "The idea is the blending of all the flavors and textures."

Through all of Conev's travels, she covered just over 300 miles, toured four schools and squeezed in some sightseeing whenever she could. She said she still plans on staying touch with the director at one of the schools, as well.

Conev's Corner celebrated its 30th anniversary this past April. She said over the years of running her daycare and visiting preschools in Europe, she has seen a lot of great kids, but some things will never change.

"On both sides of the pond they have spoiled children," Conev said with a laugh.

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