Greater Boston Outdoor Learning Adventures
Looking for ways to connect your kids to nature beyond your backyard? Between time spent indoors and computer-based remote learning plans, it’s no secret that kids today have more ‘screen time’ than ‘green time’, making it more essential than ever to get outside. Here’s what nature play can do for your kids: encourage a healthy, active lifestyle, reduce stress and anxiety levels, boost energy and academic focus, develop imagination, learn to navigate risk and problem solving, improve mental well-being, and keep those vitamin D levels up! Talk about making the most of your weekends! Not an outdoor enthusiast yourself? These Greater Boston area programs make it easy to take the first step toward Mother Nature!
The Trustees – Massachusetts’ largest preservation
With over 100 special places to visit across the Commonwealth totaling nearly 29,000 acres of landscape and a calendar full of inspired programs devoted to getting families outside, being at one with nature—and your family has never been easier!
Channel your inner explorer on a breathtaking Dune Hike at the grand Crane Estate at Castle Hill, play follow the leader on a Hike with Goats across picturesque farm trails, and join Trustees Trekker Family Hikes perfect for all ages.
Longing for the intoxicating, woody smells of a campfire? Rent your own private fire pit at several Trustees properties and make some outdoor memories with family and friends—s’mores kits, blazing fire, and seating included!
Set your kids loose across forest and fields on a much-needed outdoor recess period led by naturalist educators for the perfect mix of fun, barnyard animals, and STEAM and nature-based learning activities at Powisset Farm’s Afterschool Program Series and Appleton’s Afternoon Adventure Series.
Inspire a love of cooking at the drop-off Kiddos in the Kitchen series, complete with indoor and outdoor ovens! Have an animal lover in the family? Nutmeg the pony and Ruby the llama are waiting for your visit to Open Barnyard days at Weir River Farm. Timed tickets and on-hand education staff make this experience feel just about private!
What better way to discover the gifts and resources of nature than to construct a fairy house built from your own collection of natural materials? Let your children’s imagination soar with a visit to the Fruitland Museum Fairy Forest where crowns, wings, and fairy or gnome costumes rule the day.
Stop to smell the flowers and celebrate the bloom of spring at the vibrant Long Hill public garden in Beverly renowned for its elegant plantings, enchanting woodland paths, and a growing event calendar that includes monthly family nature walks and scavenger hunts.
Pre-registration and advanced admission required for all programs. See website for a variety of school vacation programs. the trustees.org
Nothing says community spirit like 1100 acres of open space and award-winning educational and recreational programs devoted to children and families throughout Greater Boston. Twenty miles of trails, four ponds, and sandy beaches offer an open door for exploring nature and enhancing your whole family’s well-being (the dogs can come too!).
Take learning, fitness, and recreation outside and spark a lifelong connection with nature on land and water with Hale’s programs designed for family fun. Run or walk the trails, rent a boat, go fishing, try stand up paddleboarding, take a swim lesson, or just go with the flow on a lazy canoe adventure.
Who says you can’t travel back in time? Bring back the endless days of summers past with Hale beach days, created for easy living. Go swimming at the pond with on-site lifeguards, log some unstructured playtime, and participate in daily pop-up activities centered around old-fashioned, backyard fun.
Why should kids have all the fun at summer camp? Make it a traditional family affair at Hale Family Camp for the ultimate screen-free staycation! Weeklong programs help families learn to be comfortable in nature, grow together, and safely step out of their comfort zone with unique nature challenges including a living tree ropes course! See website for school vacation programs and upcoming community events. $10 daily parking fee, hale1918.org
Create the next generation of nature heroes as you inspire your children to build meaningful connections to the natural world, they will carry with them wherever they go. Mass Audubon’s Nature Play Areas and year-round activities invite families to step out hand in hand to discover the physical, mental, and spiritual benefits of the great outdoors.
From Drumlin Farm in Lincoln to Oak Knoll in Attleboro and Boston’s own Nature Center in Mattapan, your kids will relish constructing their own surroundings, communing with wildlife, and solving problems using natural elements across a network of sanctuaries featuring nature play areas for unstructured play and observation of the natural world. For Mass Audubon, “nature play” refers to activities that emerge organically as part of nature programs, including predator/prey games and investigating animals that live under a log. Physical structures or elements, such as giant nests or digging areas encourage children to connect with nature through play. These spaces encourage visitors to engage with nature in ways that go beyond simply walking on trails and observing plants and animals.
Remote doesn’t always mean screen time—jump start nature play any time of year with mobile-friendly scavenger hunts and seasonally themed activities that teach children ways to care for the environment and give them space to grow with their imaginations. Browse the rich calendar of family nature programs online including field trips, animal encounters, geocaching, nocturnal walks, and more!
Mass Audubon’s Nature Play Guidelines:
Nature play is:
· Digging, mixing, pouring, building with sand, dirt, and water
· Building with sticks, leaves, and rocks (loose parts)
· Hunting and gathering
· Climbing, crawling, jumping
· Moving over, under, through, across nature spaces and natural objects
· Finding pathways, shortcuts, and secret places
· Movement play: imitating natural phenomena
· Gardens: structured and unstructured places for beauty, food, and habitat
· Sensory explorations
· Using natural materials to make art
· Sound play: drums, chimes, talk tubes