sprouts art and nature school

learn more

Thanks for your interest in Sprouts. Let's dig in!

We’re always happy to share! 

All of our information is protected by copyright law, however, we’ve recently come across some very flattering imitations so we’ve decided to make our unique information slightly harder to come by.

On this page you can find more exclusive content including our philosophy, schedule, and curriculum.


The word ‘boredom’ has become a four-letter word in recent decades of childcare and parenting.

We believe that children who are ‘bored’ are actually used to being overstimulated, so at Sprouts we have taken a step back from stimulation.

Instead of more structured activities, we provide free time. Instead of specific toys, we provide open-ended materials. And instead of more children, more technology, more academics, and more intensity, we provide a smaller group with no screens; less restrictions and more freedom.

We want children to experience the boredom that grows independence and imagination. We, as teachers, provide the environment, the schedule, the curriculum, and the supervision. The children can do the rest.

At Sprouts we embrace boredom.


The spaces at Sprouts are part our our teaching philosophy; the environment at a school is essentially a teacher in itself.  Your child will spend more time interacting with their environment at school than with any teacher – even in a one-on-one situation.

Our spaces are designed to bring nature to our inside play and art to our outside play, to ensure children have a strong sense of attainability and accessibility to nature experiences, and to promote the importance of community. 

They are also designed to promote independence.  Independence of thought, choice, responsibility, activity, physical growth, and learning to name a few.  The children at Sprouts are building a foundation of creating their own learning and play opportunities wherever they may be.

Though we don’t spend as much time indoors as we do outdoors, our indoor classroom has been carefully arranged to promote independence, a sense of community, imagination, and the accessibility of nature even from inside.

For children of the same age, we have flexible movement between our two classrooms inside.  We have different types of open-ended toys on both sides, as well as bathrooms for each. 


In 2020, we logged over 2000 hours PER PERSON outdoors on our nature playground.  Check out our blog post! 

We ARE an outside school.  Our only parameters for heading inside include:

1: Heat Index over 100 degrees with no cooling methods or activities.

2: Wind Chill under 10 degrees with no warming activities.

3. Wind Chill below 32 degrees and children with very wet outdoor gear.

4: Dangerous weather including tornado warnings, thunder storms, and extraordinarily high winds. 

Our 1/4 acre nature playground features native butterfly garden in partnership with the Urban Butterfly Initiative, a pollinator pocket and certified Wildlife Habitat, we also have a two stump climbing areas, two slides, a mud kitchen and digging pit, a water play area and a building area.  And all children have access to almost every inch of it every single day.

All ages of children mix on our outdoor playground, using a variety of loose parts, defined areas, and activities for different abilities. 


Our schedule is made up of three basic parts.  Children are allowed to participate in group activities as they please and are pulled for individual activities when they are not engrossed in something else.  Free play is our main activity – and allowing children extended periods of free play is a big part of our philosophy. Children participate in our curriculum through art projects, group discussions and experiments, and stories.

free play

At Sprouts free play rules the day. We provide a minimum of three hours of free play time each morning – with even more each afternoon. We allow children free access to all of our open-ended toys and materials.

Many schools do not offer a truly free play experience – it can be very messy, get a little crazy, and takes time to develop – but at Sprouts we embrace it.

Children are encouraged to use bits and pieces from all of our materials to create new things, use spaces in new and different ways, imagine, sit and think, run and jump, or put on a play.  Children that are new to Sprouts often spend a few weeks watching the veteran Sprouts completely engage in hours-long play – but one they have a feel for it, they quickly join in. 

These three boys (right top) have made a house (using sticks, rocks, and logs as walls) with a sink (tire), a fire pit (stick pile), chairs (stumps), and a flag (upright stick).  This is just one small example of the amazing playing kids do while in free play at Sprouts. 

The second photo features a set of painted mud balls.  One of the children found that when making mud balls, they will dry out and harden into harder balls after a few days.  He then used paint to create this beautiful set of very special ‘gems.’

These types of elaborate complex play require the uninterrupted time period and restriction-free use of open-ended toys and materials.


Art compliments our free play at Sprouts – it isn’t necessarily a separate activity.  

We allow children free access to a multitude of art supplies and opportunities. 

We create using many natural materials and give children a jumping-off point for self-expression.

Often, children will request specific art supplies for a specific purpose that they have determined in play – and, most often, all the other Sprouts will want to participate.  Much of the art at Sprouts is entirely child-led.

Our goal is to provide children the hands-on practice with process-driven art and encourage imagination over product.


At Sprouts we aim to provide a space where children can discover some of the amazing things that central Illinois nature has to offer. 

We actively encourage children to observe, respect, and engage with nature and natural materials in all sorts of ways. 

As with art, Nature is not a separate activity at Sprouts – it is woven in to our every-day activities, playtime, and experiences to create lasting relationships with nature.

This relationship early in life leads to adults that feel a responsibility toward protecting nature, engaging with nature, and becoming the next generation of environmentalists. 


Our curriculum is unique – just like us. As experienced early childhood educators, licensed teachers, and enthusiastic learners, Caity & Ellen have written and implement a curriculum that you can only find at Sprouts. 

seasons of study

The Sprouts curriculum isn’t exactly a student-led emergent curriculum. It’s more like nature-led. 

Our interests are peaked by events outside – changing of seasons, animals and insects, flowers and trees – and we delve deeper what we’re most excited about. 

We have a carefully curated selection of books to support our research, a wealth of volunteer specialists that visit with additional information, and the beauty of the nature right in our own backyard. 

Pictured is our infographic about the Monarchs we raised and released in 2020 and one of our butterfly plays.

academic instruction

As Early Childhood Educators, we believe that childhood is a special time during which our core values take root. At no other point in life are humans so invested in the wonders of our Earth and at no other time do those wonders have the same impact. Learning about life through discovery of nature is the foundation of childhood – and there is plenty of time for academics later.

ready to enroll?

The next step is filling out our enrollment application. 

If you haven’t already, please open a Brightwheel account to complete the application.

This form helps us to learn more about your family and the childcare-family fit.  Please answer each question carefully and add any information you think we should know!

Once we have approved your enrollment application, we can schedule an interview!

Interviews at Sprouts are a chance to meet in person, chat about Sprouts and your family, and explore the space.

We like to meet for approximately 30 minutes and meet the entire family, if possible.