Kelly Kohler was looking for quality childcare for her own three children when she (quite literally) realized her dream of opening a daycare center.
“I had a dream where I opened up a center, and it was beautiful and clean, and every single caregiver was loving, happy, nurturing and caring. It was like a big family. I woke up the next morning and told my husband, [Nick], and he said, ‘Let’s go for it.’”
In their own search for a daycare, the couple found that while large centers are able to provide kids with better playgrounds and programs, they are often corporately run.
“At the end of the day, my child was a number,” says Kelly.
On the flip side, small, in-home daycares have the intimate setting that larger centers lack, but don’t have as much to offer in the way of facilities. In-home daycares also typically group kids together regardless of their age, meaning fewer opportunities for activities tailored to each child’s stage of development.
Kelly and Nick’s goal was to incorporate the homey atmosphere of a small daycare into a larger facility. The result is Little Lambs Daycare and nursery school in Lake Katrine.
“My husband and I are both very creative. We love coming up with ideas for the classroom and routines that keep kids engaged and learning through play and having fun all day long,” says Kelly.
At Little Lambs, children enjoy physical activities like yoga and dance, as well as educational programs in subjects such as art and science.
Little Lambs also has a healthy lunch program, with meals made from fresh, local ingredients.
“I didn’t want to just have chicken nuggets and french fries and pizza. We try to introduce them to different foods, and we’ve gotten a lot of great eaters as a result of our program,” explains Kelly.
Little Lambs Academy is an environment in which children can learn and grow, but the Kohlers’ daycare is about more than just kids: it’s about community.
Instead of advertising, Nick and Kelly sponsor organizations they believe in.
“The way we have grown so fast, is we sponsor the Saugerties AYSO soccer league and put our names on it. We donate to the Ulster police department and they put our name on it. Any time someone comes to us with a fundraiser, we really think about it and decide whether or not this is something we want to be involved in,” explains Kelly.
Last year, the couple also participated in the Saint Baldrick’s fundraiser for childhood cancer research.
“There’s a strange amount of children locally who have gotten cancer. We know a couple of families personally who have lost children,” Kelly explains. Together with families of Little Lambs students, the Kohlers were able to raise more than $12,000 for the cause.
“Just being a part of that with this community that we’ve created means so much to us,” says Kelly. “This is really about changing families and helping them to think outside of themselves and yet providing a service for them. That’s really our goal and our vision.”