Nature program aims to get kids outside during cool winter months

NANAIMO – A new program from the city's parks and rec department aims to get youngsters out, active and learning during the school year.

A new program from Nanaimo’s parks and recreation department aims to get youngsters outside, active and learning during the school year.

Set to begin Nov. 19 and running Tuesdays and Thursdays until June at the Bowen Park upper picnic shelter, Nature Tykes will have children aged three to five years playing and learning amongst nature, even in the winter months.

“The reason we want to start this is we want to get kids outside any time of year,” said Deborah Beck, recreation coordinator for the city. “They [will be] outdoors for two hours in the morning and nature is such a great way for kids to be creative, for them to experience things, for them to learn, for them to burn off energy and be physically active …”

Judy Wickland, Nature Tykes’ instructor, said research is showing that children miss out on development if they aren’t outdoors. It improves their creativity, she added.

“You don’t see a lot of kids outdoors and learning things,” said Wickland. “I’m really surprised at how little kids know, so part of this program is going to be teaching them things but it’s also getting them to do things on their own, being able to look at the ants’ nest, dig in the dirt, find out what the dirt is like, climb on logs – just the creativity and curiosity about nature and what’s out there.”

Children who take part in the program need to be dressed for the weather, as they will be outdoors regardless, and despite the fact it’s changing from fall to winter, Wickland said there are plenty of things to do in the colder months.

“There are a lot of activities you can do in the winter time, too,” Wickland said. “If it’s snowing, looking for tracks in the snow or even when there’s mud, kids like to play in the water … just be prepared to go outside and have fun.”

Parents looking to enrol their children can call the City of Nanaimo’s parks, recreation and culture department at 250-756-5200 and ask for the Nature Tykes program.

Pricing varies with the amount of sessions and information can be found at www.nanaimo.ca, under Early Years and Children’s Programs.

Volunteers to assist Wickland are also being sought, too.