Take a Child Outside Week kicks off, as it does every year, Sept. 24 and is designed to help kids get out and explore the natural world.
The program, founded by Liz Baird, chief of school and lifelong education for the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences, is now marked in all 50 states and four other countries. It was inspired by Richard Louv’s book “Last Child in the Woods,” which identifies the benefits of outdoor experiences for children and addresses some of the problems of what he terms “Nature Deficit Disorder,” such as increased stress and feelings of being disconnected from the world, according to a press release from the natural sciences museum.
“Free time in nature has been shown to improve every area of a child’s life, from having healthier, stronger bodies, to being more successful in school, to having better relationships in their community,” said Baird in the release. “Time outside every day should be part of your regular routine.”
Here in the Triangle, there are lots of free and inexpensive programs to mark the week. Most are offered by state and local park systems, along with the natural sciences museum. The week will run through Sept. 30.
Here's what's planned:
Praire Ridge Ecostation, 1671 Gold Star Dr., Raleigh
The natural science museum's outdoor learning lab, Prairie Ridge Ecostation in west Raleigh, will host daily activities. Here's when they are:
- Nature Play Day – Sunday, Sept. 24, 1:30 p.m. to 3:30pm
- Guided Hike – Monday, Sept. 25, 10:30am
- Walk through the Seasons – Tuesday, Sept. 26, 9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.
- Nature Play Day – Tuesday, Sept. 26, 10 a.m. to noon
- Paint and Play – Wednesday, Sept. 27, 10 a.m. to noon
- Nature Stories – Thursday, Sept. 28, 10:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.
- Citizen Science Saturday – Saturday, Sept. 30, 10:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.
- Nature Play Day – Saturday, Sept. 30, 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.
All ages are welcome; children 15 or younger must be accompanied by an adult. Wear comfortable clothes and closed-toe shoes. No registration required. For information e-mail email@example.com, call 919-707-8878 or visit Prairie Ridge online.
Raleigh Parks, various locations
Many of these activities require pre-registration and a small fee. Plan ahead! Raleigh parks' website has more information about registration and locations.
- Family Naturalists: Pollinators, Walnut Creek Wetland Center, Sunday, September 24, 2 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. Ages 5 years and up. September is the best time to observe the life cycles of butterflies and moths. Learn about pollination and its importance to ecosystems, observe caterpillars of different species, and try your hand at catching some! This is a family-friendly program and fee applies to all participants. Please register at least 4 days in advance. Course Fee: $2.
- Family Fishing, Lake Johnson, Monday, September 25, 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. All Ages. Enjoy 'Take A Child Outdoors' Week by participating in Lake Johnson's 'Family Fishing' Night activities. Lake Johnson provides all programs, equipment, bait, and experienced instructors. Learn about different types of fish found throughout North Carolina's lakes and streams. This free program is open to youth and families of all ages. Course fee: $1.
- Junior Kids' Fishing, Lake Johnson, Tuesday, September 26, 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. Ages four to six years. This program is for younger children who have never fished before but would like to try. We will practice with some casting games and spend some time fishing in the lake. Your child will leave with stickers and fishing themed coloring pages. Course fee: $1.
- Magical Monarchs, Durant Nature Preserve, Tuesday, September 26, 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. Ages three to five years. Monarchs are getting ready to fly south to spend the winter months in Mexico. Before they leave, join a nature instructor to learn about these magical creatures. Learn what they like to eat, how we can help them, and ways we can attract them to our backyards. Each participant will make a butterfly craft to take home. Children must be accompanied by an adult. Adults attend free. Preregistration is required at least four days in advance of the program. Course fee: $3.
- Terrific Turtles, Sertoma Arts Center and Lake Wheeler Park, Tuesday-Thursday, September 26 – 28, 10:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Ages two to six years. Preschoolers will learn all about turtles through stories, songs, and games. Live turtles will delight the children. This program will conclude with a turtle craft to take home. Preregistration is required four days prior to the event. Adult must accompany child. Adults attend free. Course fee: $1
- Beaver Pond, Annie Louise Wilkerson Nature Preserve, 12:45 p.m. to 2:15 p.m., September 27 and 10:30 a.m. to noon, September 30. Ages three to five years. Discover how beavers live, eat, and play in their watery world. Weather permitting, we will search for beaver signs in and around the farm pond at the preserve. Story and craft are included. This program is designed for a parent or other adult to attend with their preschooler. No charge for adult. Note: Some activities will take place on a trail that is not stroller accessible. Course fee: $3
- Kids Fishing, Lake Johnson Park, Wednesday, September 27, 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. Ages seven to 12 years. This class is great for youth new to fishing. We will go over casting techniques and setting up your rod and reel, and what fish are found in the lake. Course fee: $1.
- Chimney Swifts, Walnut Creek Wetland Center, Wednesday, September 27, 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. Ages eight years and up. Celebrate the migratory chimney swifts and learn why their future is threatened. After a short education session, we'll walk across the street to watch them as they come together in a magical aeronautical show before roosting for the night in the chimney at Carnage Magnet Middle School. Times are approximate and may be adjusted as the date approaches. There is no rain date for this event. Free.
- Kritter Kids, Thomas G. Crowder Woodland Center at Lake Johnson Park, Thursday, September 28, 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. Ages three to six years. Learn about the incredible insects that we find right here in the park. We will play hands-on games, complete a take-home craft and perhaps even see one of our wild friends close up! Course fee: $1.
- Nature Play Days, Annie Louise Wilkerson Nature Preserve, Friday, September 29, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. All Ages. Join anytime between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. to enjoy our latest ideas for playing in nature. Children of all ages, as well as the young at heart, are welcome to join us for imaginative play in a natural setting. Dig for gemstones, make a fort out of natural materials, fly a kite, make mud pies and more. We'll provide the materials and guidance to get you started on a playful adventure – free of charge! Children must be accompanied by an adult. If you can't make this play day, you can check out Nature Play kits free of charge whenever the park office is open.
- Durant Family Campout, Durant Nature Preserve, Friday-Saturday, September 29-30, 6 p.m. 11 a.m. Ages six years and up. Families gather to form a group and enjoy an overnight experience, which includes a Dutch oven dinner, a naturalist-led night hike, s'mores, a light breakfast and time for fishing. Bring a tent if you have one or borrow one of ours. Your gear will be hauled by vehicle down to the primitive, lakeside campsite that we will call home for the night! Course fee: Youth $15, Adult $20.
- Twilight Walk, Annie Louise Wilkerson Nature Preserve, Saturday, September 30, 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. Ages four years and up. Many animals are active around sunset or shortly after. Take a walk with a park naturalist to explore the woods and fields at this special time. Look for deer, coyotes and owls. The program is designed for families with young children. All ages are welcome. Children must be accompanied by an adult. Fee applies to all participants ages 4 through adult. Children under four do not need to register. Course fee: $2.
Town of Cary
The town of Cary's Bond Park Community Center and Stevens Nature Center will host Take a Child Outside events throughout the week. Details and registration information is on Cary's website.
Wake County parks
The park system also is hosting a variety of special events for Take a Child Outside week. There's a waiting list for some of the events, but there are openings for many. Wake's website has the details.
JC Raulston Arboretum, Raleigh
The arboretum, part of NC State University, will host daily programs, including a scavenger hunt, nature play, nature stories and more. The arboretum's website has the details.
Across North Carolina
North Carolina Environmental Education, part of the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality, has a big listing of Take a Child Week Outside activities on its calendar.