My daughter Emily started Seedlings last week. The first week of Seedlings, I took lots of pictures trying to capture the essence of what makes this program so unique. But this picture is the one that I keep coming back to time and time again.

Here’s what I love about this picture…

It’s story time at Sunflower. It’s nearing the end of the day, and the children have headed out to the Valley. Susan brings several books from the extensive library, perhaps asking the children help her pick the ones that seem the most interesting that day.

Once they get to the Valley, Seedlings have a wide array of activities to choose from. This is a pretty physically active place. Lots of room to run, swings to share, trees to climb, and a jumbo compost ball to roll. And there, perched right in the center of all the activity, Susan and her books. She begins by sitting on a log and calling out to the children who want to read a story to join her.

At Seedlings, children ALWAYS have a choice. They are each driven by their own internal and developmental needs. No one is required to sit and read a story if that isn’t the right thing for them to be doing at that moment or on that day.

Susan begins with several children around her on the log, reading Monster Mama. Apparently the book it quite a hit because it attracts a few more children, then a few more children, then a few more children. Susan stands up to make room for all the newcomers. The Seedlings all squish together, wanting to make as much room as possible for their friends to share in the magic of the story.

My daughter Emily is sitting on the log, in a purple polka-dot dress. She has her arms around a new friend, A, who had a fall and needed a bit of extra comforting. Another teacher, Sandra, sits in the back row, providing her lap for a child who may also need a bit of extra comfort.

Soon it’s standing room only, as the story attracts more than half the children. The bigger kids, the experienced Seedlings, stand in the back. Over on the side is V., who has come dressed for story time. This costume has been her attire for the first week. She and another friend create grand adventures for themselves, and the right outfit enhances the experience.

Standing in the front row is M., with his shirt off. At first glance, it may appear that he’s not paying attention to the story. But as parents and teachers already know, children can absorb what they hear even when their hands and eyes are engaged in something else.

My daughter talked about this story for several days afterward – it made a big impression on her. I can only imagine it had the same effect on the other children who heard it. My son’s kindergarten teacher told him, “a book can take you on adventure.” And this picture so truly exemplifies 14 children, each off on an adventure.

As the story comes to a close, the children all disperse, on to another activity. Perhaps it’s off to the swings, playing “detective,” or time for a water break. Each child finding his or her natural rhythm. But they each take something from the story with them: some new language and cognitive skills, curiosity, creativity and imagination, a love of reading and storytelling, and exposure to new words and concepts. This is the magic of Seedlings.

© Jennifer Sneeden and Sunflower Creative Arts, 2012

Jennifer Sneeden, PhD(c), LMFT, first connected with Sunflower two years ago, and is so grateful for the experiences she and her children have had through Susan and Sunflower. She’s a psychotherapist in private practice in Boca Raton. She shares her experiences as a mom and a therapist on her Facebook page at