“I grew up on a small farm, and we were outdoors exploring all the time. My parents gave us a section of the barn for our playhouse. We could do anything we wanted—play with mud, scour the barn for furniture, sleep in there—it was about freedom. We could go to the barn, pastures, pond, woods, and Mother Nature just called. There was so much there to see! So being outside, that’s what I did from the start at the center. 

In the summer, we’re outside for most of the day, except a couple of hours for rest time. In cooler weather, we try to get two hours outside each morning and then another hour in the afternoon. We take the kids right into the play yard and talk about what’s there: sand, water, leaves, pine needles, grasses. 

A lot of the time the kids are free to play with whatever they want. Sometimes we will play games around a certain theme that’s being used in morning meeting, like hibernation. One teacher is the bear, the kids are berries and nuts, and she goes around and finds them before hibernating. 

My advice for other providers is to just go out and follow the lead of the kids. My kids will ask— can we go for a walk? To the pond? Find a small thing that interests you outside, and go from there. Kids will go from there. You don’t need a lot of stuff to play with. The one thing that does help is water suits. We use them year-round. But mother nature provides pretty much anything else you need! Sometimes we band together with another provider nearby, to take a walk together. Lots of people don’t like to go out when it’s cold. For providers, getting good snow pants and mittens (try visiting used clothing stores!)—that’s a huge thing. You need to be comfortable yourself.” 

-Meri Saladino, My Second Home, Bradford, VT

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