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Patapsco Valley State Park
There are so many benefits to raising a child in Howard County. One of my favorite benefits though is that there are so many parks and other outdoor recreation venues literally in our backyard. The Patapsco Valley State Park is a sprawling nature preserve that extends 32 miles along the Patapsco River and encompasses over 14,000 acres! Recently, Sweet Pea and I introduced Grandma to the park during a Fall nature walk. If you are not unsure about taking your toddler or young preschooler on a nature walk, I can tell you that not only will both of you love it, it also has the added benefit of being practically free.
More importantly though, nature walks are a fantastic sensory experience for young children. Exploring in nature is so important for cognitive, social, and even emotional development. That makes sense, right? I mean, as an adult I always feel so peaceful, so refreshed, when I go on a hike or spend time in nature. For our kids, the benefits are even greater!
There were so many fun things to explore on our short nature walk. Sweet Pea loved walking across the Swinging Bridge (which is located in the Avalon area of the park) and then we meandered down the walking/bike path for about 1/2 mile out and 1/2 mile back. That was the perfect distance for her 2-year old legs. She didn’t even ask to be picked up until we were almost at the end of the entire walk! We threw rocks into the river, traversed trees that had fallen down, climbed over boulders, stomped in puddles, picked out big walking sticks, and listened for birds. I brought along a basket so that Sweet Pea could collect treasures along the way- leaves, rocks, ferns, pieces of bark, sticks. It was really neat to see what she picked out versus the items she was not interested in.
Fall Sensory Bin
Using the spoils from our morning nature walk, it took literally 2 minutes to create a great Fall Sensory Bin for Sweet Pea to play with.
Instructions for creating Fall Sensory Bin:
– Find a decent-sized plastic bin. I didn’t use anything too large, just a drawer from an IKEA storage unit.
– Fill it with about 3 bags of popcorn kernels.
– Add the items collected in the nature walk. Alternatively, just use items from your own backyard.. less leaves to collect!
– Add a few spoons, cups, and measuring utensils to the bin.
Voila! It is as easy as that!
You will certainly want to ensure that the bin is in an area that is easy to clean (we set ours up in the kitchen) and the bin requires some sort of adult supervision. However, this activity kept Sweet Pea occupied for almost an hour. As long as you have an ‘out of the way’ place to store the fall sensory bin, there is no reason this activity can’t provide sensory enjoyment for your toddler throughout the season!
I was inspired to create this bin by Jackie at Happy Hooligans. To see her ideas (which are totally awesome), check out her post here: http://happyhooligans.ca/fall-sensory-bin/. Additionally, I also really love Little Bins for Little Hands, which is a site dedicated to the sensory experience. This post has a lot of great ideas for fall kids activities: http://littlebinsforlittlehands.com/fall-activities-for-kids/.
Anyhow, we had a blast exploring the forest before it goes to sleep for the Winter. The fact that Grandma was able to join us was icing on the cake!
What fun fall nature activities do you do with your kids?
Thanks for reading!