The greening of your local daycare

By Danette Vernon

Have you ever wished you could just quit your job, and run away to the country with your children? You’d plant a garden, and maybe raise a few chickens. Your children would have their own miniature shovels and cute little garden boots. Further, you envision you and your children wandering around in the garden in the early part of the morning, checking on the chickens and pulling rain washed beans off of flower laden shoots. Oh, and the pictures you could send grandma of the kids, and your latest batch of baby chicks! Priceless.

COMMUNITY - DAY CARE 5 Elijah Moore paintingBut, it’s not happening. You can’t quit your job, and your kids are in daycare. You might as well throw away those old copies of Mother Earth News—and since when have your kids ever touched a green bean anyways? They hate them.

Or do they?

My name is Danette Vernon, and at my house on several mornings a week, you can hear the sound of children’s laughter, a hose running, and repetitive, yet affable discussions on, “whose turn is it next?” I’m watering the organic garden behind my house—but the children aren’t mine. I run a small private daycare on Lady’s Island.

The parents of these children have decided upon an alternative to the standard daycare setting. With the overall “greening” of America, and the bloom of young parents committed to feeding their children organic, parents want continuity. In the 40+ hours a week that their children spend at daycare while they’re at work, some parents want their child to eat just as they do at home—as much organic as possible. But it’s about more than just finding a daycare that offers better food. You can pack your child a lunch if you are that concerned about it.

In our world of supervised play dates and iPods, parents are beginning to be stirred by the idea of their children having experiences that are, for the lack of a better word, “real.”

This spring the children and I planted seeds, and their parents bought them those “cute little garden boots.” They planted, watered, measured, and then finally a few weeks ago, they tested their crops. They tried green beans. Not everyone liked that first bite, but within minutes, they were sitting together between the rows, pulling off green beans and happily eating them fresh from the garden. The idea of food being free for the taking—outside—astonished them.

Along the way, we shoveled and scraped and hammered, following the premises expounded upon by author and patent holder, Gever Tulley. He has taught groups of elementary school age kids in summer camps, since 2005, to build things, and to explore possibilities, activities that became the springboard for his book, “50 Dangerous Things (that you should let your children do).” We operate a bit smaller at Beaufort Babysitting by Serendipity Services. I only keep three children per day, for one thing, and the children are predominantly pre-schoolers. You would still find, however, children feeling competent and affirmed by outside- of- the- box experiences. Four year olds rehearse with bits of wood, and then go on to paint real things, like 6’ flower boxes, or parts of an old bench that we were refurbishing. Two, three, and four year olds have shoveled compost for the garden at my place. On other days they practice watering the worms in our vermicomposting pit, getting the worms moist, but not wet. Children that stay with me for any length of time know where a banana peel goes, the reasons why we put egg shells around our lemon tree, and of course, they have eaten green beans—right out of the garden.

And while the parents that I work for have not been able to quit their jobs, every so often, they take the time to leisurely work their way through a row of vegetables for themselves, munching as they go. And the pictures they have of their children with our baby chicks? Priceless.

For more information go to www.childcarebeaufort.weebly.com.

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