The week of September 23-30 is national Take a Child Outside Week – and I can’t think of a better place to take a child outside than the zoo!
This special week aimed at connecting children to nature was founded in 2007 by the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, and has since spread to over 250 parks, nature centers, zoos and museums around the country.
Friends of the Zoo joined this effort as a partner by pledging to offer opportunities for young people to be outside in nature, engage in nature play and appreciate the natural world.
When we built our Explorer’s PlaySpace in 2016, we did so for all these reasons – and because imaginative nature play is good for everyone, especially young children. Nature play spaces encourage children to engage in unstructured play that involves using their senses, imagination and creativity interacting with the natural world.
Child development studies indicate that nature play improves cognition and thinking, increases focus, decreases anxiety, builds confidence and helps prevent childhood obesity. It also helps develop a sense of wonder about the natural world that translates into a connection to and respect for green spaces, natural resources and wildlife.
For our part, the zoo will offer guided tours of our outdoor Wildlife Trail on Tuesday, September 24 and Thursday, September 26 at 10:30 a.m. – followed by facilitated play at our Explorer’s PlaySpace. The tour is suitable for all ages; meet at the gazebo in the zoo courtyard at 10:30 a.m. both days, weather permitting.
And of course, the PlaySpace is open and available for children to engage in nature play all year during zoo hours — So I invite you to Take a Child Outside at the zoo this week – and every week — as often as time and the weather allow.
Janet Agostini President + CEO Friends of the Zoo