I think many would agree when I say Vermont summers are short. There is a simple two-word answer to how we can make the most out of what this Green Mountain State has to offer in the warmer months. Get outside.
This month we are going back to the basics of outdoor play and exploration. Nothing fancy is needed, no expensive toys and equipment – just you and your children and the great outdoors.
The number one issue that can get in the way of an outdoor adventure is not being prepared. It is easy to throw a small backpack together with some snacks, water, straightforward first aid supplies, sunscreen and bug spray. Keeping these supplies together makes outings easy each time you leave your house.
There are some incredible natural playgrounds, both big and small, in Chittenden County. The newest one is City Center Park in South Burlington located between Barrett and Market Streets. The other small but fun natural play area we regularly visit is right outside City Market in the South End of Burlington. It has stumps of various sizes, large rocks and large logs that are locked together for children to practice balancing.
If you’re up for a little drive, take a trip to Stowe Mountain Resort where they have the Enchanted Forest Playground. One Google reviewer reported that there are small areas perfect for toddlers to climb. On your way back to Chittenden County, stop in Waterbury at Thatcher Brook Primary School to play. Besides an amphitheater and log treehouse, this playground also has a rock-climbing wall built into a hill.
Want to stay in your backyard? No problem. Take out the items that connect you back to your childhood and the joy you experienced. How about creating mud pies using dirt and water? Think about getting real pots and pans to add to the sandbox for this purpose.
For me, I remember blowing bubbles or chasing them when other people would blow them for me. Blowing bubbles is great for all ages, even young babies. I found a small bubble machine for $10 that caused giggles, squeals and children running in uncountable circles trying to pop the most bubbles.
I also recall countless hours of running through the garden sprinkler. Ours wasn’t a fancy animal shape or plastic, it was a regular old sprinkler. My dad would pull it around the yard as one part of the yard would get too wet, and I would gleefully chase after it.
I am not a person who loves creepy, crawl and slimy, but I take care of some kiddos who love worms. They dig them up and examine them up close and personal. Exploring living organisms is a rich learning experience about the natural world.
If your child is more interested in drawing or building with blocks, bring the blocks outside. Create a comfortable and easy to clean up space, for your child to do what they love in their free time while still getting the fresh air and connection to nature that is so desperately needed.
I would love to see how you are spending your summer and about the playgrounds you visit. Visit my author page on Facebook at Ellen M. Drolette and post a picture with #otherpapersbtv #positiveparenting.
Ellen Drolette, owner of Sunshine Daydream Child Care, has been an early educator for 24 years. Named one of 50 master leaders in the world by Exchange magazine in 2015 and a global leader in early care and education for the World Forum Foundation. She is co-owner of Positive Spin, LLC, offering professional development and empowerment workshops. Reach Ellen at firstname.lastname@example.org.