Little Naturalists nurtures kids’ love for the outdoors | ParkRecord.com

Little Naturalists nurtures kids’ love for the outdoors

When a New Year begins, many parents try to find new activities for their children in hopes that something will ignite their interests.

Skiing, snowboarding and snowshoeing are popular outdoor activities available to kids, as well as adults for that matter.

However, the Swaner EcoCenter offers an indoor activity that focuses on the outdoors — Little Naturalists Story Time.

The program is geared for 3- to 5-year-olds who are curious about animals, their habitats, the environment, and other aspects of nature, said Natalie McHale, education assistant at the Swaner Preserve and EcoCenter.

"[It’s held] on the first and third Monday of each month through May," McHale said. "Participants read a specially selected nature-themed story, participate in an activity or game, and complete a craft."

All of this takes place between 10 a.m. and 11 a.m.

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"The primary goal for this program is to teach kids at a very young age about nature, and help them to form a relationship with the natural world," McHale explained. "All of the Little Naturalists programs have hands-on aspects that allow preschoolers to explore and understand various aspects of nature, whether it’s the different types of birds on the Preserve, why leaves change in the fall, or trying out snowshoeing for the first time."

One past story time included the books "Mouse’s First Fall" by Lauren Thompson and "We’re Going on a Leaf Hunt" by Steve Metzger that were followed by a leaf-print activity. Another session spotlighted the books "The Tiny Seed" and "Flip, Float, Fly: Seeds on the Move," by Eric Carle and by JoAnn Early Macken, respectively. After the stories, the children created a take-home craft with different types of seeds.

The next activity, which will be held on Jan. 5, will feature the books "Outside your Window" by Nicola Davies and "Swirl by Swirl" by Joyce Sidman. The children will then create a wind chime using natural materials.

"Four years ago, the Swaner EcoCenter’s education director at the time explored the various offerings in Park City and found there was a lack of programming for preschool-aged children," McHale said. "The Little Naturalists program was created to fill this gap."

The program also seemed like a great opportunity to reach a new audience and begin laying the foundation for a lifelong love of nature.

"Over the past four years the program has proven to be a good fit for both the Swaner Preserve and EcoCenter and the community," McHale said. "The program also helps children to begin forming relationships with their peers, as they work on their crafts and play games together."

A parent or guardian is required to stay during the program to help their child, and that has additional benefits.

"I think in addition to being fun and educational for the kids, this is a great opportunity for the adults to meet other parents," McHale said. "[However,] it is so fun to see the children begin to form friendships with each other as they come back each month."

The Swaner EcoCenter, 1258 Center Dr. at Kimball Junction, will present Little Naturalists Story Time the first and third Mondays of each month from 10 a.m. until 11 a.m. Space is limited for some programs, so registering in advance is recommended.

The cost is $2 per family per program. A $15 punch card good for eight programs is also available. Only one punch card is required per family.

To register, contact Natalie McHale by calling 435-797-8938 or emailing Natalie.McHale@usu.edu . For more information, visit http://www.swanerecocenter.org.

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