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Our Nature Play Club: Where Kids Lead and Parents Follow

Our Nature Play Club: Where Kids Lead and Parents Follow

Our first Nature Play Club event in April went so well!  I promised you a report on our fun — so here it is!  The week before the event, the families were buzzing about our upcoming get-together. No one, including me, knew what to expect. We were just excited to get started.

I purposely took very few photos of our nature play. This was a time for me to spend with my family, not a blog assignment. However, there were some memorable moments which begged to be recorded. I also purposely don’t call our events “meetings.” That sounds like work! I prefer “gathering” or “get-together” or “event.”

My Observations:

  • It is the perfect club for families. We started at 10:30 am, with no penalties for being late. It’s supposed to be laid back and every family has different Saturday schedules. For us, it’s good to have lazy weekends after our bustling weeks.
  • We are limiting our group to 5 families. These are 5 families I know, but we rarely get together socially. I thought this would be the perfect excuse to spend more time together. The smaller group lends itself to less scheduling difficulties and more personal interaction. We want to hike eventually and let the kids get to know each other without the confusion of a big group.
  • Pick familiar territory for your first meeting. We picked Canyon View Park and it was just the right combo of playgrounds and nature.
  • Packing a picnic lunch turned out to be a great idea, since it allowed us to extend our stay until after 1pm. One family even decided to go for a hike on the trail after the rest of us left.
  • Have things planned, but plan to change plans. I’m picking one nature play activity per event, completely subject to change or cancellation (depending on the mood of the children).

Our Activities:

  • This time it was a bark rubbing (Place a piece of paper on a natural surface – a leaf, rock, tree trunk – and rub the crayon over the paper. Some of the children even outlined a flower or person on the paper first and then colored different parts of their outline.)  Everyone brought paper and crayons. The kids played on the playground for a while and then wanted to do the activity. Each child paired off with an adult and headed off to find some cool natural surfaces to do bark rubbings.
  • On a whim, I also brought 5 bug catchers which I purchased for $1.99 at Walgreen’s. I’ve also seen them at Big Lots and other discount stores. They seem to go on sale in the spring. These turned out to be the hit of the day! The kids went crazy gently catching critters and releasing them.  First it was snails (I swear we found 20+ snails at one point) and then we switched to rolie-polies. A group of the older kids set themselves the task of catching the lizard by the playground. Their patience paid off and they got to have lunch with a lizard — and a stink bug. Of course, we released all our catches after an hour.
  • We walked along the service road at the park and the kids became entranced with the animal tracks in the mud.
  • The birds were chirping so we did some bird watching and had the good luck of watching a red-tailed hawk land low in the branches of a nearby tree. The kids froze and got quiet, giving the hawk an opportunity to swoop down and pick up some prey off the ground. Wow! What a sight!
  • The flowers were blooming and the moms couldn’t resist snapping photos of the beautiful purple flowers and day lilies. The older girls of the group borrowed their moms’ cameras and took off on a photo journal hunt of their own.

What to Bring:

  • For the first meeting, I brought a clipboard and the forms provided in the Nature Clubs for Families toolkit (photo release, sign-in sheet and liability).
  • Pens, pencils, and crayons
  • First aid kit
  • A large water cooler (like the kind you use for Gatorade at sports games) and cups
  • I brought a bag of oranges and tangerines for snacking.
  • Picnic lunch (suggested)
  • Camera (but don’t spend too much time taking photos)

What’s Next?

  • A big part of our first meeting was having the families bring 2 nature play ideas so we could create an ANNUAL calendar right away.
  • Everyone came with really unique “wishes” of things they’d like to do. For instance, Dara’s 3 year old requested “Dinosaurs, cats, and robots.” His dad took care of the robots part by drawing one on the paper at our first meeting and then making a bark rubbing to color it in!! How creative is that?


Monday 13th of February 2017

Just found this paragraph it sounds great I've! I very recently started a page for fellow parents to meet up at a local place with their children for a creative nature parent and child gathering where I hope to provide a connection to the parents I see everyday but seldom get the time to actually get to know...

Nicole Beaty

Sunday 20th of July 2014

Hello! We are a new nature club in the PNW. We look forward to following your blog to help us find more ways to explore. Kind regards, Nicole Beaty

Marghanita Hughes

Monday 3rd of May 2010

Hi Michele

Your nature group sounds fantastic- I want to come along!

I'm thinking of starting a Little Humbugs Nature Club here in the Okanagan for mid summer-still need to look into it in more detail. This is a great start, thank you for sharing. Marghanita x .-= Marghanita Hughes´s last blog ..Playing Amongst The Dandelions =-.


Monday 3rd of May 2010

Congrats on a wonderful first outing! And thanks for sharing such wonderful tips!

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