Photo Credits: Muskegon Area District Library | Staff Photographer
Children are the future of our local communities and what better way to impact their perception of animal husbandry and perspectives on farming and agriculture than with adorable pygmy goats! Children are naturally curious and inquisitive and often enjoy learning in unconventional ways. Nicole Zaagman offers the Jump for JOY Program™ though Parkside Farm to local schools, libraries and community programming for an unforgettable, hands-on and educational farm experience. Parkside Farm, believes in the benefits of animal assisted activities and interventions, specifically using the pygmy goat to teach, educate and spread JOY. So what makes pygmy goats great farm animals for children's programming? Nicole calls the benefits the triple S's, Social, Small and Silly!
The caprine (goat) species is at its core a social one. In order to survive and for their mental health and well-being they do best in a community of other goats. Pygmy goats are very curious creatures and love to try new things and meet new faces. At Parkside Farm, the pygmy goats are well socialized and frequently around people of all ages. Children and parents can look to the pygmy goat and remember the importance of having a supportive social circle in their lives for physical and mental well-being.
Pygmy goats are the smallest breed of domesticated goats on the planet. Baby pygmy goats are on average approximately 3-4 pounds when born. Adult females average 50 pounds and adult males average 60 pounds. Because of their small stature, pygmy goats can easily be transported and maneuver smaller areas and be picked up easily by handlers to be petted. Pygmy goats are non-assuming and non-intimidating for those who may have aversions do canines or larger animals. Pygmy goats are bred for their companionship, loving personalities and pet qualities. Making them a terrific animal for children to interact with and learn from.
Pygmy goats are no stranger to silly antics. They like to bounce, hop, climb and jump around to get where they want to go. The younger the pygmy goat the sillier they are, often twisting and contorting their bodies and "show off" for a captive audience. If logistically feasible, Nicole will place baby pygmy goats on the ground and allow them to "perform" for viewers. Much laughter, and collective ooo's and awe's can frequently be heard from children as they watch the tiny creatures bounce and hop around.
One of the greatest compliments during an event is having a child come and tell me they want to be a farmer, own a goat one day or work with animals such as being a zoo keeper or veterinarian. They see me working with my pygmy goats and it inspires them to dream and believe that they can pursue what brings them JOY for their future careers. It's such a wonderful feeling. - Nicole Zaagman
A few of the benefits of pygmy goats for children's programming include:
1. Reading Literacy
Nicole Zaagman makes an effort to incorporate a variety of learning opportunities for children and their parents at scheduled events. Nicole's children's storybook, Samson the Baby Pygmy Goat, can be incorporated as part of an event for a story time reading. As a life coach, Nicole uses thoughtful questions while reading, such as asking children if they've ever owned a pet and if anyone has been to a farm. Children love to share details about their pets and experiences with them. Children are encouraged to ask questions after storybook readings. Nicole loves being able to provide information about pygmy goats. Some of the frequently asked questions include: what do pygmy goats eat? Where do the pygmy goats live? How big do they get?, etc.
2. Hands-On Experience
Engagement of sight, sound and touch. Experiencing pygmy goats engage many senses, seeing, hearing and touching these adorable animals. Watching the pygmy goats movements, mannerisms and interactions might be a first for many children participating. Hearing the different noises they make, children will often "talk back" to the pygmy goats making playful "baaa" noises. Petting pygmy goats are a part of many events. Often pygmy goat snacks are brought along to give children the opportunity to feed a pygmy goat along with many requests to take photos with the pygmy goats to show friends and relatives their new four-legged friends.
3. Interactive Engagement
With all the fun that pygmy goats provide, learning is a common result. Not only are children experiencing the goats, they are learning valuable information about a local Michigan farm and agriculture. Nicole has had children vocalize their desire to pursue their passions for their future careers encompassing farming and animals as a result of events. Nicole likes to provide Parkside Farm coloring sheets for children to color at an event or to take home. One fun way to further enhance an event is to incorporate goat products such as: goat milk, goat cheese and goat milk ice cream for an even more interactive experience.
If you're a Michigan school, teacher or children's program coordinator, Nicole would love to connect with you and answer any questions you have about booking a Jump for JOY Program™ service for your program or organization. To reach Nicole Zaagman, call or text: 616-201-0220 or fill out this application form to get started. Here is a testimonial from a recent Jump for JOY Program™ client:
Our staff and family loved interacting with the goats and the feedback has all been positive. Many of our staff/family mentioned they learned more about goats from talking to Nicole while visiting the goats and they loved the personal touch. We found the experience engaging; everyone who attended was excited for the goats and loved having an interactive experience. Renae Skutnik, BA, SHRM-SCP, Fetzer Institute | Kalamazoo, Michigan
Nicole Zaagman graduated from Spring Arbor University with her BA in 2009. After working for corporate entities, Nicole launched her creative agency in 2014. Nicole is an accomplished Christian business woman, life coach, author and entrepreneur with clients nationwide. In 2021, Nicole restarted her pygmy goat herd, Parkside Farm. In 2023, Nicole launched the Jump for JOY Program™ using pygmy goats for animal assisted activities to help children and adults improve their social skills, self confidence, reduce stress, experience more joy and impact well-being. Today, Nicole helps others craft more JOY in their own lives through unique coaching, photography sessions and farm education.