Mini Explorers is designed to get families outdoors, learning through play and exploration in nature. When this is done with other families, social connections are formed, shared experiences are enjoyed, and in many cases both adults and children become more comfortable outdoors.
In the three years that we have offered this program a number of families have participated, told their friends about it, sent grandparents with the children when they can’t come themselves. Friendships have formed that often lead to families getting together in other ways outside of the Mini Explorers. New trails are discovered by families and they return for their own family adventure.
They have met at Cranberry Meadow Bog, MacDowell Dam, Gilsum Pond Campground at Monadnock State Park, various rail trails, Jaffrey Recreation ball field, and many more spots throughout the region. Some of the activities from this fall and winter included building snow castles, lanterns, drinking hot chocolate, finding animal tracks, building animal homes, decorating pumpkins with natural materials, and lots of wet muddy play. In the summer they caught tadpoles with nets, hiked Shieling Forest, had scavenger hunts in the woods, made entries in their nature journals, and searched for shapes and colors in nature.
Nicole tells me she loves to see parents and caregivers connect with each other. For the kids, it is often pretty straightforward: You’re a kid, I’m a kid, let’s go play. No hesitation. Just pure joy.
Getting outdoors. It seems simple, yet profound. The limitations are removed when you are outdoors. Who cares if the kids are laughing and yelling if they are running around in the middle of a field? Let them run. Let them be as loud as they want. No need to shush them. No need to slow them down. They probably will slip and fall. And they will get up and run some more. They won’t break. They can get their hands dirty exploring the mud puddle. Hands can be washed. They might discover something wonderful, like a red eft under the rock. Or a toad hopping across the trail. Or see a turtle drop from the log into the pond. And maybe, just maybe, they will sleep better that night.
For parents and caregivers as well as the children, it is freeing to learn that the outdoors is not to be feared, but to be enjoyed. Run, jump, explore. Be loud. Make a friend.
I love Mini Explorers. It is only one of the many family programs we offer at The River Center Family and Community Resource Center. We offer programs for families of all ages and stages. To register or to learn more about our programs go to rivercenternh.org or call 924-6800.
Welcome to 2023. Maybe this is a the year to explore our own backyard.
Margaret Nelson, Executive Director
The River Center Family and Community Resource Center Mnelson@rivercenternh.org