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Forest Play

Forest Play

Children have been playing outside for as long as humans have been human and even beyond! Play is nature’s way of preparing baby mammals to become adults. As playing in nature has become less and less common, researchers are rediscovering its powerful role in healthy development. At this time, the opportunity for play outdoors is more urgent than ever to allow children to get outside with peers, playing and moving in a calm natural environment. 

Playing outside with other children under the guidance and support of caring adults helps young children develop all kinds of essential skills and characteristics including:

  • spatial and body awareness
  • communication and social skills
  • empathy
  • a deep emotional bond with nature
  • creativity
  • resilience
  • tolerance for boredom, slowness and not always getting their way
  • practical problem-solving skills

And in the day-to-day, nature play helps children to fully expend their energy, sleep better, and regulate their emotions.

The Approach

We believe everything is a learning opportunity. We work with small groups so that we are aware of each learning opportunity as they arise for each child and can coach them through it. We help each child find their challenge edges and gently push them as they are ready. The more children can do for themselves, the more they learn. To that end, we can help a child navigate a stream, put on their shoes, close their backpack, but we won’t do the whole task for them if there is any part of it that they are capable of doing themselves. This approach demands that we are extremely attentive. We love sharing beautiful learning and growth moments that a child has had with their parents, so please make a little time to check in with us at the end of each day.

The Location

We love the Kentville Gorge (53 Gladys Porter Drive) as a play location because it has a shelter, which we can use to get out of the rain (in the case of a prolonged downpour). It also has a variety of play features. The mountain bike skills park next to the parking lot is a great place for little kids to run, climb, jump, and balance. Deeper into the woods, there are wide, easy to navigate paths, flat paths, steep, windy paths, bridges, logs, and a brook! The diversity of environments and challenges is truly ideal. 

The Facilitators

Emily LeGrand

Nature was a central part of Emily’s childhood with experiences like raising tadpoles into frogs, getting to know the deer herd in the forest by her home, and daily nature walks with her family. Flying Squirrel Adventures brings together many of Emily’s passions, including child-led, self-directed learning, natural history, nature connection, and having a good time goofing around in the stream!  Emily loves to watch kids grow in confidence, playfulness, focused attention and physical mobility as they are supported to play and learn in woods. She has been working to promote outdoor play in the Annapolis Valley for the last few years with municipalities and schools, and is very excited to continue on a similar path with Flying Squirrel Adventures’ Forest Play program!

Judy Lipp

Judy has always loved spending time in the great outdoors.  Quiet wanders or challenging hikes through the woods, beach combing and foraging wild edibles are some of her favorite activities. She loves connecting people to nature, watching them grow and flourish in the presence of the natural world.   Despite growing up running through the woods and climbing trees, she found her naturalist tendencies peaked in the middle of Canada’s largest urban centre where she first started tracking coyotes, foraging medicinal plants and starting fires with friction.  She has been involved in nature facilitation for many different ages for the last five years and has run Forest Play sessions for pre-schoolers since 2018. As a mother of a toddler she has daily experience of the ‘wild child’ phenomenon and loves pursuing the child-led curiosity so prevalent at this age. She is excited to bring her skill and passion to the Forest Play program this summer. 


Poster explaining the dates and information for the summer session of Forest Play, a nature based program for children ages 3.5-5