Picture, if you will, a vibrant, comforting place, filled with wonder. A place where the delightful sounds of children and farm animals play throughout the day. This charming farm-turned-preschool sits on 60 acres in West Lakeland Township.
The gates at the Children’s Farm opened nearly 50 years ago, in 1974, when Dave and Nancy Jones were raising their family. The Joneses watched as their children benefited from hands-on learning at their hobby farm and felt a calling to invite the community to share in the experience.
Director Jeanne Leppicello has been involved with the Children’s Farm for 20 years. “I started doing chores when my son attended preschool here,” Leppicello says.
Leppicello, who studied therapeutic recreation at Southern Connecticut State University, sent all three of her children to preschool at the farm. She says it’s fun to watch the kids dig in.
“Even weeding, which a lot of adults are like, ‘Why would I want to weed?’ But for the kids, it’s so rewarding—because then you go feed it to the pigs and to the chickens, and the chickens are so happy to get weeds,” Leppicello says.
The Children’s Farm is not just a preschool; a variety of nature-inspired educational classes are available. The farm offers adult and child classes for ages 2-and-a-half to 4 years, after-school classes for ages 5 to 11 and summer classes for ages 3 to 10.
In the adult and child classes, a parent or caregiver learns ways to nurture curiosity in their child. During the fall, the class focuses on harvesting. “They grind corn, shell corn off the cob and bring it home to make corn muffins,” Leppicello says.
During the winter session, kids and adults learn about animal tracks, make nature lanterns and build winter bird feeders. “We’ll have a bonfire out for them, too. The fire keeps everybody warm,” Leppicello says.
Mickey Eckert, a preschool teacher at the Children’s Farm for the past seven years, says the bond between children and animals is truly special to behold. “Being on the farm, the animals help them feel confident. It helps them be gentle. They talk to these animals. They become their friends,” Eckert says.