The Nature Explore Classroom at
Berardi’s Family Farm Daycare
I have provided licensed childcare in my home for 30 years. I am fortunate to have over an acre of land on which to explore with children ranging in age from three months to five years.
My main playground is surrounded by mature trees that form a beautiful canopy over the space. There is a chicken coop and goat enclosure that abuts the playground. The children spend most of their days outside, including mealtime. We attempt 0 waste so they know what foods the goats, chickens, and dog can eat. Anything left over is either fed to the animals or put in the composter. The children grow peas and beans along the fence and have an herb garden that is planted in an old horse trough and provides lovely scents.
I have a spot we refer to as the baby gazebo. It is a covered area with half railings around it with a gate. It is within the playground and has room darkening curtains, mosquito netting and porta cribs so that the babies can nap outside.
The children’s favorite activities within the playground are the mud kitchen/messy play area and the climb/crawl/balance area. I have wire baskets along the fence by the kitchen with lots of utensils, bowls, and strainers. Beside that area is an octagon-shaped planter with soil that they use in the kitchen, dig in with trucks and bury toys to find later! The climb/crawl/balance area has a slide, tree stumps and large truck tires with planks secured to them forming bridges.
I do have a larger garden for the children. They start seeds in the bright windows indoors then transplant the seedlings when the weather allows. They raise their garden through the growing season, eating straight from it as there are no pesticides used. The garden project is truly year-round as they explore the decomposing plants as the growing season ends. They love to squish the dying plants and find seeds left behind by the sunflowers and other plants. They learn about the importance of bees and have a bee bath complete with marbles in it so the bees won’t fall in when they come for a drink.
I also have a horse and pony on my property that the children feed. They have a large paddock and run-in with gated stalls. The children love to be set free there! The ponies are locked in and the children have free rein of about a half-acre of land that is somewhat wooded. This is where they build forts, play hide and seek, dig with larger shovels and use garden rakes. They like to lay on the ground, look up at the canopy and listen to the birds and small animals surrounding them in the trees and woods. They also roll down the big hill and sled down it in winter.
I know that the children love our environment but the parents do as well. They have told me that I inspire them to spend more time out in Nature!