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Toddling Into Nature

Written by Lesley Sheridan
    Wednesday, 05 March 2014
Toddling Into Nature

Reflecting on all my experiences, I’ve really come to appreciate the pure joy and curiosity preschool-aged children readily exhibit in response to outdoor experiences. I can always count on pockets full of leaves, rocks, sticks and other treasures that kids bring to show me with exclamations of delight! One of my favorite things to do with preschoolers is to flip over these large, black pads that we have in Riverside Park to reveal the invertebrate life hidden beneath. The kids help me point out scurrying centipedes, hustling isopods and wiggling worms.

I’ll ask if anyone wants to hold one of the worms and a tentative hand will open up. It’s not long after that I’ll have twelve tiny hands reaching out for a slimy friend of their own. 

People who have spent time around kids intuitively know that being outside is good for them. A growing body of research suggests that engaging kids in outdoor play and learning during their early developmental stages has both immediate and lasting positive effects like healthy brain development, improved attention and cognitive functioning, resilience to stress and adversity, and enhanced curiosity, creativity and imagination. But to fully experience these benefits, young children need regular opportunities to engage in simple, positive, outdoor experiences. With that in mind, we are very excited to provide two new program series — Kindernature and Toddling Into Nature — designed specifically for preschoolers and their parents to experience outdoor and nature-themed play and learning together.

Kindernature programs at Riverside Park are self-directed, drop in programs for preschoolers to engage independently in seasonally-themed activity stations that develop basic learning and motor skills.

During the Toddling Into Nature Series at Riverside and Washington Parks, an Urban Ecology Center educator will guide young children to explore the wonders of our urban parks. We will facilitate activities that allow young children and adults to interact meaningfully with each other and with nature, as well as with the other families.

Activities in these programs provide preschoolers with opportunities to engage all five senses and stimulate curiosity through guided exploration, practice motor and cognitive skills with hands-on learning and build a foundation of appreciation for the natural world. Our programs are designed to help adults learn motivating methods and ideas for involving preschoolers in meaningful encounters with nature.

Get your little one involved in guided nature play. Check our online calendar and newsletter for the Kindernature and Toddling Into Nature schedule.

Lesley Sheridan

Lesley Sheridan

Lesley Sheridan is the Community Program Coordinator at the Urban Ecology Center -- Riverside Park branch.

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