Tuesday, July 23, 2024

CHS Grad Creates the Ultimate Child Activity Box: Growing Little Sprouts

Gretchen and her family

Gretchen McOuat (formerly Nielsen) has created the ultimate educational activity and craft box for young learners. After doing a pilot test of the product in November, she now finds herself shipping to six states in her debut December box. The Coronado alumna took the long road to launching Growing Little Spouts activity boxes. Her path is pumped full of early education curriculum, untamed ambition, and the hands-on experience of being a mom.

Her Educational Path

Gretchen attended all three Coronado village schools and throughout her journey she knew she wanted to be a teacher. Her third grade teacher Ms. Marston and fourth grade teacher Ms. Keller at Village Elementary were particularly influential. Gretchen was focused on pursing a teaching career with older elementary school students, like she was when her love for learning really kicked off.

The teaching industry was saturated when she graduated with her liberal arts degree, so Gretchen returned to earn her Master’s Degree in Literacy from the University of San Diego. During those years she taught first and second grade in Chula Vista. She then learned that Columbia University offered an advanced master’s in Curriculum and Teaching. Taking a risk, Gretchen applied, admitting, “I never thought that I would get in!” Her principal encouraged her to take the opportunity, so Gretchen moved across the country to New York City.

Gretchen doing activities with her kids

After graduating from Columbia (which she attended while also teaching kindergarten), fate brought her back to Southern California with a teaching position in Los Angeles. Gretchen married Derek and together they welcomed a son. He was born premature and they suffered his loss after only a month. When she got pregnant again, she reevaluated her teaching plans and decided to slow down. “With my kids is where I want to be,” Gretchen shares, and has since welcomed another son and daughter. Mason (6), Jaxson (4), and Eloise (2) are who ultimately changed her path. Gretchen shares that she never expected to be homeschooling, but gushes about the joy it brings her. “These early years are so critical, there is so much curiosity and natural enthusiasm. My goal is to give them opportunities and then step back and ignite their love for learning.”

Growing Little Sprouts Activity Boxes

Gretchen’s younger sister Bridgett (CHS ’10) currently resides in Coronado with her husband Alex (CHS ’09), a teacher at Coronado Middle School. Bridgett works from home and takes care of their son Cooper (2) and daughter Charlotte (5 months). Gretchen would visit and put together creative activities for Cooper to do with Bridgett who struggled to find the time in the midst of full time working and taking care of her family. Thus, the activity box began.

Gretchen’s nephew Cooper enjoying a Thanksgiving activity

Gretchen shares, “I didn’t realize that people would love it! I know Pinterest can be overwhelming and homeschooling can be a lot. I learned how to break it down and make activities simple and accessible.” She continues, “When I do an activity with my kids, I want to know what skills they are using. Things that seem simple like cutting and gluing are actually skills that need to be practiced for children.” For instance, benefits of cutting include: strengthening hand muscles, visual motor skills such as eye-hand coordination, fine motor skills such as separation of hand and finger dexterity, and, focus and attention.

What You Can Expect in an Activity Box

Currently, the activity box is designed with ages 3-6 in mind. Each activity allows tailoring to fit the child’s current level. For instance, Gretchen explains, “If there are colored buttons and a child is learning about colors, you can have them pick out all the blue buttons. If they are counting you can ask them to count all the blue buttons. You can sort them into piles and ask which pile is larger. Parents can go as deep into the activities as they want. It’s not just ‘glue down and make a craft.'”

The activity box costs $40 and includes 10 activities. The December box is filled with holiday fun including gingerbread, snowman, and candy cane activities. Gretchen is planning to roll out a monthly subscription option and creating even more activity boxes. “Every box makes me so happy because I think of the child on the other end who is going to receive it and love it! I can still be part of kid lives in this small way even if I am not teaching.”

Growing Little Sprouts December Activity Box

My Review!

Mely working on her November activity box.

Gretchen sent me a box to try with my daughter, Mely, who turned two in October. While some of the activities would clearly look different if a four year old had completed it, Mely was able to interact with all the activities at her own level. Each box comes with the activities prepackaged and an instruction page.

Gretchen has achieved what she hoped to with accessibly and simplicity! It is so nice not to have a box of supplies to forage through while trying to determine what should be used for which activity, or worse, go to Michael’s myself and end up with 500 googly eyes and no real plan. My daughter picks one activity out of the box and we can spend the time to do it together. Having Gretchen’s instructions, I know not only what to do, but the WHY behind it. I then have the knowledge and can incorporate it into other daily activities we do together.

You can order your own box or gift it this holiday season for a young child at https://growinglittlesprouts.com/products/box-1.

Check Growing Little Sprouts on Instagram for fun activities!


Alyssa K. Burns
Alyssa K. Burns
Alyssa is a graduate of Coronado High School and was in the founding broadcast journalism class at CHS. She earned her BA in Communication from CSU East Bay and completed her MBA from CSU San Marcos. Her passion for writing and interest in the behind the scenes of business, leads her to write frequently about Coronado businesses. You can find Alyssa walking around the ferry landing with her husband and shih-tzu terrier or enjoying a cup of coffee at one of Coronado's favorite cafes.Have a story for The Coronado Times to cover? Send news tips or story ideas to: [email protected]

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