Live to learn under the sun – why the environment could be making all the difference to your child’s daycare

An image overlooking looking Seattle from a patch of green grass. Which will triumph?
An image overlooking looking Seattle from a patch of green grass. Which will triumph?

Green grass, flowering bushes with the buzzing bees and the huge trees offering a nice patch of shade… it seems like the perfect way for your child to grow up learning about the environment and finding a way to live in harmony with nature. Coincidentally, Seattle is the perfect city, with a good amount of green parks and parents frustrated with expensive daycare centers with two year waiting lists!

The concept of daycare is new to this writer, and growing up halfway across the world in a mega city which can be described best as a concrete jungle, finding beautiful green parks is also a rarity. After coming to Seattle I have discovered these two elements in two very different different lights: daycare and nature. In one hand, affordable alternative daycare options is quickly becoming a concern for parents – many whom are coming into the Seattle as it morphs into a major city for their jobs. Seattle is definitely one of those cities where nature and the environment plays a major role. Seattle has the upper hand- it can stand as a role model for other cities nationally and internationally by utilizing it’s well maintained environment for unconventional purposes. You can see where I’m getting at – outdoor

Outdoor daycare has been practiced in places in Northern Europe. In the quest to uncover this interesting trend which is taking hold in Seattle I have come across a few names – Tiny Trees, Fiddleheads and the Froggy  Holler just to name a few.  I interviewed Andrew A. Jay, Chief Executive Officer of Tiny Trees, to give me his perspective about outdoor daycare and how he started up with the idea of having daycare done outside.

Why do daycare outside? Does it have any added advantage that children miss out being taken care of inside? Andrew wanted Tiny Trees to provide young children with a nature rich experience that would be also be an affordable option for their parents. Tiny Trees emerged when Andrew submitted this to a pitch competition last fall and won and Tiny Trees is a non profit startup. The glaring difference between the European  outdoor daycare schools is that they are state funded while in the U.S. they are privately funded. The outdoor preschool market is out there for the taking, and Andrew is convinced that more outdoor daycare will happen because they cut costs for an already expensive Seattle living standard. There’s basically no cost for having daycare outside in the park. Andrew has a vision for how this unique program should be designed – 2 teachers for 16 kids in one location. He plans to have 6 locations started by next year in July, and classes will start with learning about pollination,flowering plants and the environment.  Why though? Kids can create a good bond with nature this way, if they begin to learn young and have their curiosity stirred when they try to articulate what they are learning day to day.

The numbers are staggering and if you are expecting and in Seattle; daycare will definitely  leave you with a dent in your wallet. According to the Seattle Times blog, a single mother’s annual income is $33500 for which daycare costs for an infant can be anywhere between $17,337 to $12,000. But I’m  just giving you the starting figures. Another fact is that much of the time,  waiting lists for day care centers may very well take up to two years – by which time your child may not actually need the services of a daycare center.

While the global temperature creeps higher and higher and we brush down the tall trees that help us survive in this planet in order  to make  way for towering concrete and steel effigies, maybe our succeeding generation has a greater chance to make a change in the world. The first step to making that change will be with growing up in Nature’s arms.

This story was produced in the 2015 SUSI program.