People all over the world watch Epp’s preschool broadcasts

By Wendy Nugent, Newton Now

Kristin Neufeld Epp has been likened to Mr. Rogers.

“I can think of no higher compliment,” she said. “If showing vulnerability, playfulness, curiosity, kindness and calm is what makes us alike, I am honored.”

Epp is director of the New Creation Preschool in Newton, which decided to shutter its doors March 19 for the rest of the academic year–for the first time since opening. Epp is director of the preschool.

“This only increased my desire to do what I could to help young families,” she said.

Epp decided to start her own “show,” so to speak, like Mr. Rogers did years ago, but hers is on Facebook, at 10 a.m. Mondays through Fridays on the preschool Facebook page. There also are recorded shows on there and on

People from other countries have watched.

“So far, we’ve had folks from as far as Indonesia, Lithuania, California, Washington, D.C., and as close as my backyard neighbors comment and interact with our broadcasts,” Epp said.

The North Newton resident is doing this for several reasons.

“Supporting our families via email, text and social media started immediately,” she said. “Recognizing that many young families were experiencing income insecurity, we canceled tuition for the remainder of the school year. By March 24, live Circle Times began on Facebook and were free and open to the public.”

There’s also another reason.

“My greatest hope is that young children feel seen and cared for,” she said.

Mondays feature the theme MUSIC MONDAY, where she performs songs and poems likely familiar to young children. On Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, Epp has CIRCLE TIME, where she leads kids through topics related to a “Word of the Day,” which includes processing feelings related to COVID-19. For instance, Epp tried on a mask and talked about how they can tell if a person is smiling just by looking at their eyes. Fridays are FUNNY FRIDAY, when Epp tells preschool-friendly riddles and jokes with props.

This past Friday, Epp opened her broadcast with her playing a ukulele, humming and singing off camera. Then, she peeked playfully around the “corner” to show her face and talk to the kids.

“Dee, dee, deet, dee, dee, deet,” she sang, looking at the camera.

“Hi guys,” she said. “Some of you are gettin’ ready for FUNNY FRIDAY, and I’m getting’ ready for FUNNY FRIDAY.”

She tapped on a nearby basket, telling kids there are items in the basket she wanted to show them, but she needed one more thing. Off camera she went, humming in the background for musical entertainment.

“I’ve gotta get one more thing, and then I’m gonna come back for some jokes,” she said.

She returned in a bit, saying she got what she wanted, was gonna move her basket and had her coffee cup.

“This is called FUNNY FRIDAY,” she said, wearing all black with rainbow-colored socks. “So I’m not wearing my preschool apron because I have no plan to need markers today or to need paper supplies or things I usually keep in my apron ’cause it’s FUNNY FRIDAY. It’s not CIRCLE TIME.”

She slipped on what she called the “funniest necklace that I have.” The necklace has a variety of items on it, including a real LEGO block, tiny roller skate with wheels that turn and a small pretend paint set.

She also affixed a stuffed red parrot to her shoulder and talked about how Miss Nancy with the preschool has a big puppet parrot at home.

One of her jokes was “Where do fish keep their money?” with accompanying props, like a stuffed fish toy and a dollar bill. The answer–”In a river bank.” Then she laughed and laugh.

New Creation Preschool has been around for a long time.

“New Creation Preschool began in 1995, and I’ve been the diiector the entire time,” Epp said. “It is a non-profit outreach of New Creation Fellowship Church, a generous and relatively small congregation that is highly committed to this program. The majority of volunteers are New Creation Fellowship Church folks, and I’ve been part of the church since the ’80s when my family moved here.”

Speaking of adults, Epp said adults like to watch her show, as well.

“I know of adults who are watching on their own and consider it an act of ‘self care,’” Epp said. “I can think of no better time than now to engage in things that give you hope or a sense of well being–even for a moment. One of my greatest joys is hearing from families that their children laughed at something I did. I realize that if I can make a child laugh, then maybe for that moment they were carefree. Top three things that kids have laughed at: when a paper fell on my head, when I accidentally kicked the camera and when I drank milk out of a glue bottle on April Fool’s Day.”

People have appreciated her efforts.

“There has been overwhelming support and gratitude from families who are looking for a way to create a ‘new normal,’” Epp said. “I am touched to be part of that.”

Not only is Epp helping others, she’s getting something out of it, too.

“Connecting with children and letting them know I care about them (even if I haven’t met them) gives me joy,” she said. “Talking with children about ways to cope and understand the changes in our world ends up calming me. Reading comments and messages helps me feel not so isolated from the work I love to do. It’s not the same as having Circle Time with a dozen little ones around me, but knowing they are watching gives me energy.”

Epp is doing this on her own, without any help from her family, while hunkering down at home. She said she appreciates them giving her quiet space and bringing her coffee while recording.

Epp’s not the only one from the preschool to take part, from their homes.

“Other teachers from our preschool regularly comment and interact with families on our Facebook posts,” Epp said. “One teacher, Nancy Claassen, records mini-Spanish lessons that I share in conjunction with my broadcasts.”

From the joy on her face during the broadcasts, one can easily tell Epp likes working with children.
“Quite simply, I want nothing more than for children to feel safe and seen,” she said. “I experienced sexual abuse as a young child, which I believe helped hone my ability to tune into children and how they are feeling. I have always loved children and am living out my childhood pastime of making pretend classrooms, libraries and amusement parks.”

She earned her degree in elementary education/early childhood education from Bethel College in 1995 and immediately started creating the preschool.

“My job has always been a place where I try to give children what I think I would have wanted,” she said.

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