SWANTON VILLAGE –– For Erin McKechnie, owner of Kiddie Garden childcare in Swanton, spending the day with a small group of worry-free humans is wonderful therapy.
“It’s good for you,” said Erin, who opened Kiddie Garden at her Canada Street home last April. She is entering her first school year as a home-based, childcare provider.
“It’s definitely one of the best jobs in the world,” she said. “It’s so exciting to be a part of raising young adults.”
Erin is a state-registered, in-home provider, and is active in the state’s food program for childcare providers. She is allowed a maximum of 10 children: four before and after school, one under age 2, and five from age 2 to school age.
Erin operates Kiddie Garden out of her 2,300-square-foot home with a half-acre yard, on Canada Street. She and her husband, Luke, have two young children: Lily and Penelope. Luke’s full-time work at Allscripts, a medical software company in Burlington, allows him to work at home three days weekly, so he helps at Kiddie Garden when possible.
Incidentally, there is a real garden at Kiddie Garden that is designed to help Erin’s young friends learn about gardening, growing and composting. Erin develops activities at Kiddie Garden so that children interact with her, each other and alone – the three basic social settings for children and adults.
“I teach them that independence is OK, that an adult will return if they go away for a short period of time,” Erin explained. “I think it’s important for them to develop their personalities, rather than just have them play with each other, or feel like they’re being watched.”
Playtime outside is a priority at Kiddie Garden, as are walking field trips to the nearby town library and post office. Music, art and stories are daily staples, and there is no television at Kiddie Garden.
The McKechnies’ children watch about an hour of TV a week. “That’s very important to us,” Erin said.
Most importantly – Erin simply loves children. Her mother was a daycare provider, and Erin likes to watch how much children grow before her eyes.
However, while growing up in her native Chicago, Erin wanted to be a food writer. She graduated from Chicago’s Le Cordon Bleu culinary school in 2003 and spent the next several years traveling seasonally, working all over the U.S. at a pastry chef, while calling Alaska “home.”
Erin arrived in Vermont in 2008, for a stint at the Woodstock Inn. Not ready to leave, she moved to Burlington and met Luke.
Erin’s fall plan is to keep gradually working toward her dream: staying home with her family, working at something she loves in the process, and starting classes toward an education degree.
She also wants to carve time that might allow her to teach local cooking classes, perhaps once or twice monthly.
“I do miss it,” she said.