Our History

Where it all began

It started with a dream: a childcare center that stimulated intellectual growth while enhancing emotional security, self-esteem, and happiness. Over 3 decades ago, Playhouse Child Care Center founders Diane Mendel and Melody Peterson teamed up to make that dream a reality.

With their backgrounds in education and nursing, Mendel and Peterson developed a childcare program that provided quality education to young children. Together, they planted the seeds of childcare centers that would eventually serve thousands of children and families and provide flexible jobs to innumerable employees in Central Minnesota.

*Center Closed

In August of 1991, the first Playhouse Child Care Center location opened in Sauk Rapids, MN, built to accommodate 99 children. Thanks to the determination of the staff, the center reached 50% capacity by the end of the first year and only continued to grow.  

With the foundation of Playhouse Child Care, opportunity was on the horizon, and Mendel and Peterson were eager to nurture the growth of the business based on their founding promise:

“We make each day count in children’s lives by providing quality care and learning opportunities to prepare each child for school readiness.”

Unexpectedly and unfortunately, the Sauk Rapids location would close in 2005 when the building was demolished to make way for the new Sauk Rapids bridge. Undeterred, Playhouse would continue to search for new opportunities and expand to other communities in Central Minnesota.

Opportunity called on Playhouse Child Care to restore a center that was closing, and in May of 1992, Playhouse opened its second location in Monticello, MN. Thanks to the support of the families and dedicated staff, our Monticello center still thrives today.

In April of 1993, Playhouse had the opportunity to expand to the St. Cloud Technical Community College campus. With a fully developed, professional childcare program led by hands-on owners, the third center was established. Today, we are proud to continue serving the children of students and staff as they seek higher education and professional development.

In August 1995, Playhouse expanded to Sartell with the opening of its fourth location in just 4 years. Currently, Sartell is Playhouse’s largest center, boasting the capacity to serve more than 120 children.

In April of 1996, Playhouse Child Care opened its fifth location on the Campus of the Central Lakes College in Brainerd, MN.

In 2006, this center would relocate to Central Lakes College in Baxter and would eventually close in 2012 after 16 years of service to the community.

In March of 2002, the sixth center opened in Little Falls, MN, where it would operate until 2007.

Soon after, all Playhouse locations were fully staffed and at capacity, so owners Mendel and Peterson devoted their attention to the continued development of their programs and curriculum.

In early 2014, Playhouse Child Care acquired an operational center. It eventually expanded and relocated to South St. Cloud in 2016, where it remains in operation today.


25 years after Playhouse was founded, it made its way back to Sauk Rapids and opened a center at a local church. There, it would provide quality care for five years until the lease expired in 2021.

Playhouse currently operates four locations in Central MN with over 130 employees, and we provide superior care to more than 350 children. We are proud to be part of your child’s growth and development, and we look forward to serving the community for years to come.


209 2nd St. S.

Sartell, MN 56377


St. Cloud SCTCC

1701 9th Ave. N.

St. Cloud, MN 56303



109 Sandberg Rd

Monticello, MN 55362


South St. Cloud

2901 Clearwater Road

St. Cloud, MN 56301