A Breath of Fresh Air for Families

Ahh…spring…blue skies, bees buzzing, birds calling….one of the best times for families to head outside to parks. A change of scenery can be a much-needed breath of fresh air. But why is it so important for us to spend time in nature? How can you be safe and have a great time? We have some answers!

Why to go:

No matter your age, spending time in nature has mental and physical benefits. You can walk, hike, run, bike, or roll your way along designated trails in parks all over Vancouver Island. It can feel daunting to get kids ready and gather everything you and your family might need for time outside, but it is well worth it. You never know what you might see or hear out in parks—perhaps a Pacific wren singing in the bushes or a river otter playing on the beach. You can build memories for the whole family while out in nature.

How to have a great time:

Being prepared to head outside is the first step to having a great time. Here are some quick tips:

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• Dress in layers and keep a blanket handy in case the weather cools.

•Bring a hat or umbrella to provide shade.

• Carry a daypack with the essentials, such as water, snacks, whistle, flashlight, and raingear.

• Plan your trip and know where you are going—bring a map in case your cell phone battery dies.

• For more tips, check out AdventureSmart.ca or the Capital Regional District’s website (crd.bc.ca).

What to do:

Even young babies can enjoy being outside. Here are some ideas for activities for the youngest members of your family:

• When out with your stroller, sling, or carrier, narrate your walk on the trail. Pick up leaves from the ground and let your baby feel them.

• Lay on the grass and point out the different sights and sounds. Bring a book and have story time with a picnic.

•If the baby is old enough to sit up and crawl, explore with them in a safe area such as a large field or beach in a park.

• Have your baby feel items in nature like leaves, bark, moss, lichen, sand, and dirt. Talk about the differences in texture—soft, hard, rough, dry, wet, etc. Watch that your baby doesn’t eat anything!

• Inspire care for nature by leaving plants in parks and observing animals from a distance.

Where to go:

Check out which parks are in walking distance from your home. Find out if there’s a nature centre in your area where your family can learn more about the plants and animals. You can also look online for local hiking groups for families. If you’re in the Capital Regional District, CRD Regional Parks offers free registered guided programs for all ages, including some five years and under specific programs.

Some CRD Regional Parks with user and stroller-friendly trails are:

• Francis/King Regional Park—the universally accessible Elsie King Trail is a short loop trail that meanders through Douglas-fir and Garry oak trees providing a shaded forest cover. Listen for the sounds of Pacific tree frogs calling. You can also visit the nature centre on weekend afternoons.

• Island View Beach Regional Park—the user-friendly trail parallel to the beach offers prime birding opportunities with shorebirds in the ocean and songbirds in the bush.

• East Sooke Regional Park—from Aylard Farms parking lot to just above the beach is a user-friendly trail with easy access to a picnic shelter and field area. Or leave your stroller in the car and head down to the beach for some sand castle building.

No matter your age, being outdoors brings numerous benefits and builds our connection to nature. Children are full of curiosity and parents and caregivers shape how children will interact with nature throughout their lives. By modelling respectful behaviour in parks—like staying on trail, keeping dogs on leash or under control, and leaving things you find where they are—adults can show children from a very young age how to care for nature. Instill a sense of wonder with excitement and stories, inspire a sense of care with kindness and compassion and we will have a future generation that values and protects the natural world.

Lauren Sherwood
Lauren Sherwood
Lauren Sherwood is a Parks Naturalist with the Capital Regional District. Please visit the website for the calendar of events crd.bc.ca/about/events