Parents know all too well that the struggle is real in getting children away from their tablets and outside for unstructured, creative play.
In recognizing the need to connect families with the natural world, the St. Charles Park District is participating in the national weeklong program Take a Child Outside from Sept. 22 to 30.
“This program is a natural fit that ties into the Park District’s mission of connecting health and wellness to nature,” said Laura McCoy, nature programs supervisor. “The program finds different ways to help families engage in their natural surroundings.”
So shut down those screens and explore, learn and play during one of the many Take a Child Outside programs.
The week will kick off Sept. 22 with the grand opening of the Hickory Knolls Discovery Center’s Hideout, a natural play area that encourages open-ended play and creativity. A ribbon-cutting will be at 1:30 p.m., but families can stop in between 1 and 4 p.m.
Children can use their imagination at the Hideout to create and have fun as they walk along the tree stumps as explorers, ascend the rocks as mountain climbers, and become pioneers in the log cabin playhouse. Crafts and critter visits will be available during the event.
Later that evening Hickory Knolls invites families to bring dinner to Picnic with the Critters from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. to learn about animals and enjoy Popsicles provided by staff. From 7:30 to 9 p.m. take in the wonder of the night sky with Star Gazing. Families can bring their own telescope or share a view from a volunteer’s scope to learn about constellations visible that night.
Hickory Knolls events are free, but please register. The nature center is at 3795 Campton Hills Drive in St. Charles.
On Sept. 23, mosey on over to Primrose Farm for its Farm Frolic from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Enjoy the rural setting of the living history farm on more than 100 acres stretched out on the northwest side of St. Charles. Celebrate the fall season with historic demonstrations, tractor-drawn wagon rides, pony rides, pumpkin painting and more. The fee is $6 per person ages 3 and older. Primrose is at 5N726 Crane Road in St. Charles.
Come play with me
During the week, come back to Hickory Knolls’ Hideout for more adventures from 4 to 6 p.m. Sept. 24, 26 and 28. Each day the play area will be filled with extra activities, including Nature Art on Monday, Bug Hunt on Wednesday and If You Build It on Friday.
Connect with the land
For those who enjoy rolling up their sleeves and getting their hands dirty, give back to nature during National Public Lands Day from 10 a.m. to noon Sept. 29 in the Hickory Knolls natural area. Participants will collect seeds and/or plant native plants. All ages are welcome. McCoy encourages families, Scouts and other organizations to lend a hand. “This restoration project helps participants feel a connection to the natural landscape and that they are making a positive impact,” she said.
Families also can feel a connection to the natural area during the Family Bird Walk from 3 to 4 p.m. Sept. 30 at Hickory Knolls. Members of the Kane County Audubon Society will lead the hike through the woods.
Both events are free, but please register.
For families that love to play sports, Ultimate Recess is the place to be from 3:30 to 5 p.m. Sept. 30 at Pottawatomie Community Center, 8 North Ave., St. Charles. Attendees will have the chance to play dodgeball, basketball and other games, and jump in a bounce house. The fee is $8 for residents and $12 for nonresidents. Each additional child is $3 for residents and $5 for nonresidents.
Take the Challenge
Children can participate in a nature challenge to be completed in their own backyard. Finish all five activities and receive a prize. Challenge sheets can be picked up at Hickory Knolls on Sept. 22.
For information on Take a Child Outside activities, visit stcnature.org or call Laura McCoy at 630-513-4393.