Spring provides a unique opportunity for children to see nature in action. As the weather warms up, animals and plants become more active after a long dormant winter. This is the perfect time to be outdoors with your family, especially if you were “hibernating” inside this winter.
Take some inspiration from your favorite MetroPark in bloom and then enjoy hands-on activities at home that keep the exploration going.
Learn something new
MetroParks hosts a myriad of kid-friendly programs for families during the spring. All MetroParks’ Conservation Kids programs are now for ages 3 to 13, so kids can participate with their siblings and friends. MetroParks educators guide children through hands-on programs that cultivate interest in the natural world and provide the tools necessary to be sterling stewards of the environment. Learn more by visiting metroparks.org/kids. If your child loves to be a helper, consider signing up for MetroParks’ biggest annual day of service, Adopt-a-Park, on Saturday, April 21st.
Keep exploring: Take time as a family to explore your child’s outdoor-focused interests in your backyard, neighborhood or local playground. Read books outside about local wildlife, compare the night sky in your backyard to the night sky in Germantown MetroPark or plant a pollinator garden. All of these activities encourage your child’s curiosity about the natural world.
One of the most apparent signs of spring can be found popping up right through the ground! Visit Aullwood Garden MetroPark to see thousands of bluebells appear in early April. The gardens at Wegerzyn Gardens and Cox Arboretum are also packed with spring blooms during April and May. Many of these flowers race to bloom before the big trees open their shady leaves. As you stroll along the trails in MetroParks, don’t forget to look for budding trees. As the leaves grow during the season, compare their shapes and sizes.
Keep exploring: Nature is all around us! Take a walk through your backyard or neighborhood. Do you see some of the same plants and flowers you saw in MetroParks? Which flowers and plants are the most colorful? Which smell the nicest? Encourage your children to use all their senses to explore the world around them.
Children today spend significantly less time playing outdoors than their parents did. (And a long, cold winter doesn’t help!) Let your stir-crazy kiddos outside so they can stretch their muscles in their favorite Five Rivers MetroPark. Hills & Dales, Possum Creek, Sugarcreek, Englewood and Wesleyan MetroPark all feature nature play areas, where kids can use their imagination and create their own fun. Eastwood and Wesleyan MetroPark feature more traditional playgrounds where kids can jump, climb, swing and slide as well.
Keep exploring: Developing both fine and gross motor skills are important for young children. Many outdoor activities that develop these skills can be done in your own back yard. Develop gross motor skills by encouraging activities like climbing on a playset, playing a game of hide and seek or creating a rock garden. To enhance fine motor skills, suggest activities that promote hand and wrist dexterity, such as planting flowers, making a castle with sticks, stacking rocks or using natural materials (like mud) to draw.
Another great reason to visit Five Rivers MetroParks during the spring is the bustle of new life that appears, from returning birds to really cool insects. Check out the trails through beautiful wooded areas and prairies to view local wildlife in their natural habitats.
Domestic animals have a special job at MetroParks too. Visit Carriage Hill MetroPark for a peek at the Riding Center’s horses and the farm animals at the historical farm. For even more animal fun, head to Possum Creek MetroPark to get up close to chickens, goats, sheep, rabbits and more. Baby animals are expected to be born during the spring at both of these MetroPark locations.
Keep exploring: Grab a magnifying glass and go on a backyard wildlife adventure. Roll over logs and turn over rocks to see how many insects you can spot. Put out a birdfeeder and see how many different kinds of birds visit. For those who want to create a cozy space for our winged friends, consider placing a bat and/or bird house in your backyard tree. Both of these flying creatures will help keep pests away from your yard and can potentially help with pollination.
Want to learn more? Check out the Five Rivers MetroParks website at www.metroparks.org.