Spring is a great time to explore wetlands parks* and see what kind of wildlife you can spot. Ducklings are a pretty likely bet at most wetlands! Often wetlands parks have boardwalks, where you’ll have to hike out a ways to see the wildlife.
Hikes are great activities with toddlers, because they burn off energy but in a lot lower-key, non-overstimulating way compared to a trip to a McDonald’s playground! (Now, I’m not knocking McDonald’s playgrounds here – they’re absolutely a place we head on a cold, rainy day when we’ve got to get out a little energy before story time at the library.)
You can sing songs or do nursery rhymes as you walk. You can talk about the things around you – the plants, the people, the animals…
Today, we went to Juanita Bay Park in Kirkland, WA. I’d never been there before – it looks small from the road, but then you get in and it’s a huge park with lots of trails and board walks. We saw a mama duck with 7 ducklings, lots of other ducks, red-wing blackbirds, and lots of turtles sunning themselves on logs. And we checked out some ant hills on our way back to the parking lot.
One of the challenges of nature hikes is that sometimes the thing you want to see is a long ways away, or camouflaged. I think this offers great practice for toddlers in observation skills. When they look out at this sea of lily pads, can they spot the mama duck? How about the babies? It’s also good for listening to directional information: like when I was pointing out a squirrel, and said “look way over there, in the tree with the white blossoms on it. Do you see the tree? There are two branches on the right side – the squirrel is on the top branch”, there’s a lot of vocabulary and concepts that go into understanding those directions.
For more ideas for nature activities with your child, click here.
* If you’re thinking there are no wetlands near you, I’ll tell you that today I looked at a map on a sign at the park, and it showed wetlands in every single state – I grew up in Wyoming, and the map showed wetlands in the northeast quadrant – now I’m curious where they are!