Nature Playtime; Kids Get Out and Explore

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Nature Playtime is a class offered by the Naperville Park District to get young children out of the house and into nature, piquing their curiosities.

Barb: Automatically, without any direction, they play.

When was the last time you enjoyed the outdoors just for the sake of enjoying it? In today’s world of constant notifications, digital devices and places to be, people to meet the Naperville Park District is making sure the youngest among us get out and enjoy nature.

Barb: The idea behind it was basically; let’s get kids outdoors. Playing outdoors, children learn so much. They’re observing everything around them, they’re touching, they smelling, they’re using their senses and that’s how they learn.

Barb Verchota is the leader of Nature Playtime, a class that meets every Thursday morning at Knoch Knolls Park. Her goal? Bring new experiences to the children ranging in age from 6 months – to 5 years old.

Barb: Sometimes you might have a kid that’s a little stand-off-ish and they have to check things out first before they dive in. But for the most part, it’s something that’s not available to them at home. Some parents don’t have bins of dirt and sand and mud painting at home, so that’s something new to them.

Class in Rain or Shine

Kate Havlick has her son Rowan enrolled, finding the class through the park district’s catalog.

Kate: I check through the catalog every time they’re distributed and I look for things his age. Actually this is the first time I’ve ever been to this nature center, so it was a pleasant surprise.

And while this particular day is sunny, the class meets regardless of the weather – so long as it is safe.

Kate: I really liked it and it actually says rain or shine, and I like that. That he’ll be in the nature, not just in our backyard. And it also gets me out as well. And seeing some areas of Naperville I haven’t been in.

Barb: Splashing in puddles – they already love water as you can see. We get them out there, walking in the rain, catching rain drops in buckets. It’s all fun. It’s an all-new experience for them. It’s something you wouldn’t do normally.

Surrounded by woods, covered in dirt, crafting in nature, the kids really do seem to enjoy the new experiences, in a new setting.

Barb: You want to get them early; you want them to find this love and appreciation for nature early on. Because these are the kids we want to take care of this earth of ours.

Reporting for Sports Story Sunday, I’m Kevin Jackman