I had the pleasure on a recent sunny morning (just prior to the gagging smoke and squelching heat) to visit with some very imaginative and lively little folks along the Wenatchee River in Leavenworth. This was no ordinary group of little pixies, mind you. This was a giggling, curious little group determined to find adventure under every rock and beyond every corner of the trail. Meeting at the playground, this particular group of adventurers were part of a summer camp for 3- and 4-year-olds offered by Mountain Sprouts Children Community and with Teacher Taylor at the helm and their little red wagon stuffed full of necessities, they put on their pint size back packs, grabbed their water bottles and set off in search of the biggest stick and full of questions about walking on clouds.

If you are not familiar with Mountain Sprouts, they are a fabulous and much loved nature preschool and childcare center in Leavenworth with a vision of “a community where children learn through experience and exploration”. If you are not familiar with the growing trend of nature preschools, they are based on the idea that kids should and need to be outside learning from the world around them with nature as their classroom. Kiddos follow a path of self-inquiry and experiential learning that, as it did the day I was there, includes lots of games, asking a gazillion questions, watching bugs, wandering after butterflies, and discovering the best place to eat the tasty snack awaiting in their back packs.

In a nature preschool it’s OK to get dirty, it’s OK to touch things, it’s even OK to fall down  and help yourself back up. It is — in my humble mommy opinion — a refreshing change from the “stuff them in the classroom and make them memorize” mentality that seemed to run rampant when my littles were little. With the sound of the river in the distance and a gentle breeze blowing, the kids created and snacked and cleaned up after themselves and listened to “How do Dinosaurs go to School” (one of my favorite children’s book series!). Who doesn’t want to spend a morning like that?

Mind you, academic preparedness is not thrown to the wind. Being school ready is an important part of their preschool curriculum and I was blown away as they told me about the equinox and how to stay safe on the beach. But they also feed those little minds planting in the community garden, walking through the trees (which are deciduous they told me), creating art along the river and learning to be kind to other little friends who come to play.

The main Mountain Sprouts campus is located at Tierra Learning up the Chumstick. Recently they have joyfully expanded to include their Willow campus in the E. Lorene Young House on the edge of the Wenatchee River Institute campus. Classes are Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to noon, and what is really cool is that they offer the absolutely unheard of drop-in care! You can register for any combination of days, as many or few as you choose — they even have a “Class Pass” punchcard good for 10 classes the whole school year! The 9-week sessions (a 7-week holiday session) offer different themes changing with the seasons and they have even lowered the cost this year to $20 for the day (this is also the punch card rate) and $25 for drop in. Registration and information about all of the fun things they do can be found on the Mountain Sprouts website.

Luckily for me, I cross paths with these darlings on a pretty regular basis since I work nearby. Luckily for you, your kiddo can enjoy three hours of awesome play and learning while you work at the nearby coffee shop or library without the constant interruptions, or go to yoga, or enjoy time with a spouse or meet up with a friend, or go for a run, or ???? Preschool is a milestone for kids and parents. Enjoy, friends!