In June 2017, I was a new mom looking for other families to join me and my toddler on nature walks. What started as a way to reach out to like-minded parents quickly became The Little Explorers club.
It all started when I created a Facebook group to share weekly meet-up locations to explore. Just a few months later, the word got out and our group reached over 450 families around Squamish, B.C. Our outings can be anything from toddler led hikes, scavenger hunts, nature arts, wildlife viewing, and bike rides.
Having this group of parents who value being active outdoors has been so valuable. After becoming a parent, I had put my social life aside and missed the adult interaction. Little Explorers gives parents the social connection that so many of us find we’re missing at this stage of raising young children. We also keep each other motivated and accountable to go out by knowing there is a community that will show up for a new nature adventure every week.
Beyond having friends to adventure with, my main goal with this group is to introduce families with young children to nature and have them gain the confidence to explore on their own as much as possible. Participating in a group like ours opens doors for new activities and adventures for those who wouldn’t dare to hit up the trail on their own. We help parents and their children gain better knowledge and interest in the outdoors while being active outside and practicing different sports.
This year, we also started a toddler bike club. It’s the same idea as The Little Explorers hiking club but on bikes: we ride anywhere from bike parks to pump tracks, forest trails, BMX track, bike clinics, and more. There are so many benefits to starting children on bikes at a young age and I wanted people to have access to a community that supports each other and gets out for a ride rain or shine.
If you’d like to create your own nature group or playdate, here are a few ideas to make your next adventure one you and your kids will remember:
- Scavenger Hunts: Scavenger hunts are fun and simple and can be done in many different themes. They can be done anywhere and children of all ages will enjoy them.
- Nature Art: There are so many treasures you can find on a nature walk so why not use these treasures and get creative with our kids. This kind of activity will get your little ones outside and physically active and also work their creativity at the same time. Some fun examples of creating art with nature are rock painting, leaf rubbing, nature weaving, mud faces, and fairy gardens. The possibilities are endless and limited only by your imagination.
- Play “Follow the leader”: This simple game can make you go farther on the trail. You choose a trail leader and everyone follows them on the trail: jumping off rocks, going over stumps, spinning in circles, etc. Let everyone have a turn and practice some different skills along the trail.
- Bring their bikes along: You can discover a trail from a different point of view when you get your little one to ride their bike instead of walking. This also allows you to cover a longer distance (depending on your children’s abilities). I always bring my toddler’s bike on walks and he loves it. His bike skills have improved so much very quickly.
Whatever way you decide to head out in nature, make sure to keep it simple so every member of the family enjoys it. And remember, the moments spent in nature with your children will teach them more than you think, these days there is not enough unstructured play in our children’s busy lives. Try to make an effort to get out every day, even if it’s only 30 minutes out in the yard or at your local playground. Embrace every opportunity to get out and explore this beautiful world with your children, they will thank you later.