Mix nature and kids, you’ll get joy and wonder

PRESCHOOLERS PLAY AT Bridge School in Middlebury.

Here in Addison County, outdoor play is a regular part of our dynamic, inquiry-based, joy-and-wonder-filled early childhood programs. Research tells us that outdoor play from birth to age five produces developmental outcomes that simply can’t be achieved indoors. Outside, there is space for active movement, with limitless opportunity for learning by observing, experiencing, trying and doing. Addison County’s early educators are lovers of sunlight and fresh air, have a true respect and for and honest appreciation of young children, and relish diving headfirst into experiential learning. Learn more about a few of our programs below! 

Nature is an invaluable partner in our therapeutic work with children here at the Addison County Parent Child Center. Immersion in the natural world, coupled with nurturing human relationships, soothes anxiety, decreases aggression and fosters resilience, self-regulation, physical development, attention and social skills. 

The Lincoln Cooperative Preschool is an outdoor-oriented school. Our outdoor classroom allows us to eat outdoors in any weather, and have rest time outside in sleeping bags on mats for most of the school year. Outdoor free play; sledding; riding strider bikes; sand, water and mud play; gardening; outdoor block building; swinging; and imaginary play climbing in the trees are all part of our afternoons.

At Otter Creek Child Center, we emphasize nature and outdoor experiences while focusing on the importance of play. We have two outdoor classrooms; one for infants and toddlers and one for the preschoolers. Both outdoor classrooms were designed and developed with the support of the administrative staff, teachers, children and their families, and are wonderful learning spaces. 

Quarry Hill School offers authentic opportunities to explore the natural world, providing children with limitless ways to move and observe. Being in the natural world grows the connection between children and the land. Observing, exploring and adventuring through the seasons helps us understand our outdoor spaces, and is a part of our evolving curriculum.

At Starksboro Cooperative Preschool, the majority of each preschool morning is spent outdoors moving, exploring and learning through play. Our day includes morning meetings in the garden, adventure walks in and around the fields of Lewis Creek, and regular garden-growing activities. We build strong muscles and cultivate both resiliency and a deep respect for nature. There is always time to listen to bird calls, dig for worms, follow tracks, find sticks and ask “why?” 

Wren’s Nest is a nature-based program for preschool-age children, with a holistic, interdisciplinary, and sensory-based approach to learning. Children come away with a deep level of comfort and love for the land they play and learn on. Above all, Wren’s Nest creates a space for children to cultivate their natural sense of awe and wonder. 

Bristol Family Center teachers believe in the importance of spending time outside each day. Outdoor play is an integral component of learning at BFC, as it allows children uninterrupted time to learn more about themselves through their active curiosity, problem-solving and wondering. BFC is blessed with large open playgrounds where children can safely test their own strengths and take risks, building confidence and making genuine connections to math, science, literacy and social studies, always with teacher support. 

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