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St. Charles Park District: Kids find cure for cabin fever with Discovery Center programs

Hickory Knolls Discovery Center, 3795 Campton Hills Drive, St. Charles, will host a “Special Series” of nature-based activities for kids ages 1 to 5 this winter.
Hickory Knolls Discovery Center, 3795 Campton Hills Drive, St. Charles, will host a “Special Series” of nature-based activities for kids ages 1 to 5 this winter.

Face it: winter can be a challenging time for kids and parents. It’s not so easy to get outdoors and burn off excess energy. A “Special Series” of nature-based activities at the Hickory Knolls Discovery Center in St. Charles can be just the cure for those wintertime blues.

“It can be really boring to be stuck inside during the winter months,” said Laura McCoy, nature programs supervisor for Hickory Knolls Discovery Center. “Kids need something fun to do.”

Such was the inspiration for the five-part series of hands-on activities that let kids ages 1 to 5 explore nature within the warm and welcoming walls of the Hickory Knolls Discovery Center.

“The programs are designed to be enjoyed indoors,” McCoy said, “but just the act of getting out of the house and coming to the Discovery Center gives kids a change of scenery.”

Once the 45-minute guided program ends, children and parents are encouraged to go outside and maybe apply the lessons of that day’s “Special Series” program to what they see on the Discovery Center grounds.

The series kicks off Jan. 17 with “Snow Much Fun,” an ice-filled adventure that explores the sensory experiences associated with snow and ice through a mixture of science experiments and nature-themed games.

Of course, most people just want to hibernate in winter, a topic that is explored in the second program “Who’s Awake?” on Jan. 31. With the Discovery Center’s resident critters and animal displays as inspiration, children will learn what creatures hibernate for the winter and how the clothes humans wear mimic the preparations animals take to get ready for this seasonal change.

On Valentine’s Day, with love in the air, kids can learn how they can best love Mother Earth through activities and crafts that focus on recycling materials. The “I Love the Earth!” program on Feb. 14 will have a carnival-like atmosphere in which kids can move from craft activities using repurposed items to age-appropriate games with a recycling theme.

By late February, cabin fever is really kicking in and kids with the need for speed can examine the nature of movement in the animal world through the “The Turtle and the Hare” program Feb. 28. Movement games that focus on hopping, crawling, slithering and other animal-like behavior will introduce kids to the concept of speed and why certain animals move the way they do.

Come March 14, the animals and plants at the Discovery Center are starting to stir in anticipation of spring. Inspired by the book “If You Give a Pig a Pancake,” the program called “Do Pancakes Grow on Trees” will look at the process that produces the sweet syrup that helps make pancakes so yummy. Look for a special appearance by the center’s very own resident guinea pig!

Each program runs from 9:30 to 10:15 a.m. and combines science experiments, nature-theme games and critter visits to help children achieve a basic understanding of natural processes.

“Kids are naturally inquisitive,” McCoy said. “We hope these programs will help them start asking questions at home and open up a world of exploring and experimenting with science and nature.”

For information about the winter “Special Series,” call McCoy at 630-513-4393.

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