Opening eyes to wonder

Photo: Susanne Jutzeler / Pexels

Little feet might not walk far, but the goal was never distance. Wildsight Creston and Family Place, a Creston-based community services provider, partnered for a series of walks designed to explore the wonder and simplicity found in nature and to open the eyes of Creston’s littlest citizens to the beauty found outdoors.

The goal was to get families of young children out and into nature. This simple plan has led to a rich and rewarding program, with benefits that extend beyond the initial goal. Family Place is able to connect with families from all walks of life through this latest addition to the suite of programs offered at Family Place Creston.

Vanessa Lozecznik is the coordinator for the East Kootenay Early Years program, as well as a Creston Valley Wildsight board member. Vicky Koenig is the Creston Valley Family Place coordinator. Vanessa and Vicky approached Melissa Flint, Wildsight Creston Valley Project Director / Coordinator, with the idea of working together to bring families outside. The partnership brings families together while fostering a love for our environment, something both organizations could get behind.

Vicky says the atmosphere on the walks is always positive and Melissa gives space for the kids to really explore their surroundings.

Young participants and a parent join in one of the Early Years Nature Walks with Wildsight Creston.

“They really home-in to ‘this is what we’re doing right now’: looking at this tiny world, looking at an ant. It’s really refreshing,” shares Vicky. “Melissa is so patient with the kids. And this is so important for the parents, not stressing about falling behind.”

Melissa prompts the families to look for certain colours in nature, or to seek out different smells, exploring ways to build curiosity about the natural world.

“I so appreciate the simplicity of it all,” says Vicky. “Successfully introducing little people to their natural surroundings at a very young age gives them a positive experience.”

Wildsight / Family Place Nature Walks have been running each month since last fall. If we’ve learned anything we learned that a nature walk with young children has 5 rules for success:

1. Don’t plan for a long-distance walk. Instead, plan plenty of time to explore, even if you barely get down the path.

2. Encourage children to get up close to nature: get down on their hands and knees to study an ant; sniff those wildflowers; feel the texture of bark on the trees. Children experience the world around them with all their senses.

3. Bring snacks! Family Place always provides snacks for the Wildsight / Family Place walks. Any successful outing usually involves a snack or two.

4. Plan for inclement weather so you don’t lose out on a good day, even if a bit of rain comes your way.

5. Have fun. Find simple games to get kids interacting with the environment, such as treasure hunts for natural objects, or spying different colours, or counting the number of sounds they can hear. Allow kids to look, listen and learn as they wander.