Last year, a friend of mine introduced me to a gem of a program in Sonoma. FarmTots at the Studdert Family Farm is the country version of Sesame Street. Tucked away, this darling farm offers days of discovery for young kids and adults alike. With sheep, rams and chickens, kids can get up close and personal with nature.
FarmTots Epitomizes What Sonoma Is All About
Besides the activities of this seven acre working farm, the main attraction is Cindy Studdert. Cindy is a trained Montessori teacher and an experienced mom. A natural with kids, her gentle manner guides and encourages wee ones to get their hands dirty while having fun and learning a ton.
One example is the way she taught Bobby how to care for plants. The patience of her approach is nothing short of amazing. It went something like this – Cindy took out plants for Bobby to water and handed him a small watering can. Of course I thought he’d drown the plants with water as he is an expert in doing so. As calm as a clam, Cindy explained to Bobby how he needed to make sure each of the plants had water. He listened and did so. After she saw how much he enjoyed watering the plants, she brought our more plants to let him water. She then explained to him how the plants needed to be put in the greenhouse, but she asked him if the neighboring chickens looked hungry. You can guess what happened next.
With a barn fashioned as a classroom and playgrounds galore, this farm is absolutely kid friendly. The classroom decorated with twinkling Christmas lights boasts activities at every corner, including a sandbox. The play structure has a steering wheel so young mateys can steer ye ship.
How did this jewel start? It started out as a soccer program for kids. As the kids became more interested in nature and the farm more developed, Cindy followed the children’s lead and modified her program to focus on farm activities. Of course, she offers the typical preschool things like counting. But what this program really offers is a hands on experience where kids can gain confidence in their abilities through working on the farm. To me, this program epitomizes what Sonoma is all about.
Montessori Roots – Cindy’s model of engaging and interacting with the children lies with background as a Montessori teacher. She emulates Mari Montessori’s’ tenet to follow the child. Flexible as can be, Cindy makes space to create activities for what the child wants to do. If a child wants to play in the garden, it’s available. If they want to play fireman, then that’s available too. Of if they want to steer a ship and play pirates, then off to the play structure. If they ate all of the tomatoes, then Cindy helps the kids plant more.
She follows another of Montessori’s tenets which is to teach practical life skills. For example, kids learn to rake and sweep. In doing so, they develop not only fine but also gross motor skills.
It also seems to follow some Waldorf principles as well as the program follows and teaches children about the rhythm of the seasons. With fruit cocktail trees, children are able to enjoy loads of different fruit.
Most of the kids in the program also are in other programs as well. So, the program acts as a supplement to those programs. With all of the child centered programs in Sonoma, Cindy didn’t feel a need to open a school.
With a fabulous ratio of teachers to students, sometimes even 2 to 1, FarmTots can nurture children with individualized attention schools with larger ratios are unable to provide.
Sound good? The Nitty Gritty – FarmTots is now accepting preschool aged and school aged children. The program for preschool tots, starting at age 2.5, is on Wednesdays and Thursdays from 9:30 -1:00 (during the spring and then again in late August). The school aged program is on Wednesday afternoons after school. FarmTots also has a Parent & Tot Class on March 15, 29 and April 19, & 26 from 9:30-11 at a cost of $10.
FarmTots has a summer program that serves kids ages 2.5-10 during the weeks of June 17, 24. July 8, 15, 22 and 29 (Mondays – Thursdays from 9:30 -2:00pm).
Contact Cindy Studdert for more information firstname.lastname@example.org