Rewild the Child is a new home daycare business dedicated to creating smart, sensitive and self-sufficient kids. It encourages outdoor play and imparting environmental stewardship.
Working parents in Metro Lansing looking for unique, value-added daycare services have two new options to choose from. Globe hoppers looking to raise little world citizens can enroll their tots in Au Bonheur des Enfants, a new French language immersion home daycare business led by a native French speaker, while those hoping to raise self-sufficient, eco-minded stewards of the planet can choose a daycare devoted to rugged individualism — and getting messy.
“Most daycares are just focused on trying to be preschools, and they’ll set a curriculum designed to get kids ready,” said Markie Cochran, referring to kindergarten.
Cochran is the founder of Rewild the Child Home Daycare in northwest Lansing. “That may be what parents think they want, but toddlers just need to play. My philosophy is to incorporate learning into play without interrupting them and allowing them to be outdoors as much as they want.”
And this summer at least, that’s meant getting dirty. Rewild the Child features an outdoor play area with a “mud kitchen,” a tire obstacle course, a sandbox, a chicken coop, and a handmade wooden play structure with two slides. There’s also a garden that kids can help tend. Cochran encourages them to help her in the kitchen preparing snacks and meals that come, in part, from that garden.
“There’s a lot of math in baking, and even though it’d be easier if I cook without them, I use it as a learning opportunity,” Cochran said. “I leave it up to the kids to find their own way to keep busy, and they can be as wild as they want as long as they’re being safe and (respectful) of others.”
Cochran’s business model was inspired by a variety of child-centric theories, including the Montessori method, Reggio Emilia, Waldorf, and nature-based programs. It’s also based in part on a book she read called “It’s OK Not to Share,” which
posits that humans are inherently selfish and that inhibiting that reflex only creates an atmosphere of punishment.
Cochran said she doesn't do timeouts, just a "a lot of distracting and removing" kids from situations in they could find conflicts.
“When you don’t make them share, you let them see how it feels to be left out, and I’ve found that that actually makes them want to share more. It’s at least way less of an issue. It’s funny because my kid is the hardest one.”
The idea for Rewild the Child came to Cochran when she was looking for a daycare for her son. Cochran is a trained doula, but re-entered the 9-to-5 workforce three years ago after her son was born and she realized the on-call lifestyle was too disruptive. None of the daycares fit what she wanted for him, so she decided to channel her ideas into a daycare that put equal emphasis on engaging with nature, organic nutrition, arts and crafts, fitness activities, and self-sufficiency.
“The only rules are that if it’s not hurting someone or you, it’s OK,” Cochran said.
“Kids are wild — they’re animal. Society tries to tame them way too much, but being calm, sitting in a seat and focusing on the same thing that everyone else is focusing on goes against kids’ nature. I let them be loud as they want, unless it’s naptime.”
Rewild the child can accommodate up to six children, which for the next three years at least will include Cochran’s son. Right now she has only one opening, but anticipates an expansion if business stays good.
“It would be nice to be able to move out to the country eventually, to get more wild with it,” Cochran said. “I could offer a lot more being in a rural setting, and the cool thing about Lansing is how close we are to rural areas. But I’m still figuring out if people want this. My customers are all very happy, and I feel lucky that they find value in what I do. I’m eager to see how it grows.”
Meanwhile, Au Bonheur des Enfants —
a French phrase meaning “to the happiness of children" — is a French language immersion home daycare on the city’s east side.
Founder Khadija Ouahidi said Au Bonheur offers a play-based learning environment for children newborns to 4-year-olds. Ouahidi, a French native, said she loves her culture and is passionate about sharing it with Metro Lansing families.
“Studies show that exposing a child to a foreign language at an early age helps them develop a variety of skills that help learning,” Ouahidi said. “Children who learn a second language are better equipped to communicate and adapt their interactions with people of different cultural backgrounds and perspectives. It also gives them an edge to develop a multifaceted perspective of the world.”
Ouahidi moved to Lansing in 2015 from England where she’d been working as a nanny. Like Rewild the Child, Au Bonheur des Enfants encourages play-based learning, with a focus on organic snacks and individualistic expression.
“Each child has their own pace and personality,” Ouahidi said. “We just help them bring out the best in themselves by getting them started on a journey to a bilingual life, with all the joys that will bring.”
Au Bonheur can accommodate up to 12 kids, with eight slots currently open. Ouahidi said none of her four students are speaking French yet — she’s only had them for a month — but is confident that it’s only a matter of time.
“They’re starting to understand me,” Ouahidi said. “So that’s the first step.”
Rewild the Child Home Daycare 2905 Mildred St., Lansing 6:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Monday - Friday; closed Saturday-Sunday (517) 331-5088, rewildthechilddaycare.com
Au Bonheur des Enfants 2809 Tammany Ave., Lansing 7:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Monday Friday; closed Saturday-Sunday (517) 402-9790, facebook.com/ daycare201