*** This article originally appeared in the Summer 2012 issue of Traverse Bay Family Magazine. It is reprinted with permission. ***
My daughter is 18 months old this summer and this is always my favorite time to take children outside to learn about nature. I love introducing her to the many things that nature has to offer! Here are some ways you can explore the natural world with your toddler.
My favorite thing about summer is eating. The bounty of fresh produce after a winter of stale, tasteless or frozen fruits and veggies is such a welcome change! There is something about snacking on healthy and yummy food right out of the garden that kids love! If gardening isn’t your thing, try u-pick berries. You could also contact a farm about a possible tour.
Are you a tree hugger? Give it a try! Feel it’s bark – is it smooth, rough, picky, or sticky? If you take a short walk down the trail at the Boardman River Nature Center (1450 Cass Rd), you will see all sorts of different types of trees to compare in a pretty short walk. There is a deciduous forest, a field, and a swamp in a 1 mile loop. The trail is not really stroller friendly, but you might be able to muscle an umbrella stroller through; a hiking frame or sling might be better.
We are blessed to live in such a beautiful area of the country. The lake changes frequently, sometimes on an hourly basis. During harvest, the fruit trees are heavy with fruit and if you drive out to Elk Rapids during cherry picking time, you will see tons of cherries along the side of the road where they fall off the trucks. A twilight drive might reveal some deer or other wildlife. Take a minute to stop and look at the beauty that surrounds us!
Unfortunately, there are no botanical gardens yet, but there is a lovely garden behind the Traverse Area District Library which is adjacent to the Grand Traverse Children’s Garden in Hull Park. Or you can go outside while the grass is being mowed, shovel the new black dirt of your compost pile, go outside in the rain, or sniff the moist air of the beach.
It always amazes me how even the smallest children hear the things around them and can even tell where it’s coming from. My daughter has heard birds chirping outside and even when she can’t see them, she KNOWS that they are birds. Amazing! Look for opportunities to point out crickets, frogs, thunder, rain, or even woodpeckers.