Three ways to get your little ones into the wild

Three ways to get your little ones into the wild

If you love hiking and learning about the natural world, I bet you hope your child will also long for strolls in the woods! The question is, how do you motivate your little one to get outdoors and ask for woodland adventuring?

Pack a hiking bag together.

Have you ever noticed that children love packing bags? One sure-fire way to get your child happily out on the trails is to pack a hiking bag together.

Start by talking about what a hiker might need. Snacks for sure! Water. A trail map to mark up together with homemade names. Binoculars to have “eagle eyes.” What else would you add to your family’s adventure bag?

Let your child take the pictures. 

Pick a subject –such as bark, leaves, moss or rocks – and invite your child to become the photographer! This will enhance your child’s desire to notice details and will charge them with a quest! Alternatively, keep it open-ended and let them photograph their hike with you.

When you arrive back at home, print out the photos and create a homemade book together, adding your child’s words. Have this be your bedtime story and remember to tell your child how grateful you are to have spent such a lovely time together in the woods. Be prepared to be asked to go back again tomorrow!

Gather a collection to make land art together.

Children have the uncanny ability to find beauty everywhere – and the desire to take these natural treasures with them. Notice what they are drawn to: leaves, bark, stones, sticks? Follow your little one’s lead and help them make a collection.

Instead of taking it home, tell a story about how you can offer a gift to the woods and its living beings by making a work of art with the collection. You can use what you find to make a creature, a path, a mandala, a fairy house, a pretend fire pit, or a stone tower. Let your child feed your imagination!

What is Little Leaf?

Little Leaf is a unique nature preschool for children ages 3 – 5. The activities above are a sampling of what we do with our young students every day and we are excited to start our Little Leaf journey at Teatown Lake Reservation! Our educators are passionate early childhood experts who place play, social-emotional learning, and the natural world at the heart of the children’s days. Children may participate 2, 3 or 5 days per week, either morning or full-day. At our place-based school, children will be immersed in all that Teatown offers. Contact Theresa McCaffrey at to set up a time to meet.

About the Author

Theresa McCaffrey

Theresa McCaffrey is the founder and director of Little Leaf.  As one who loves to be out hiking in the woods, it made sense to her that her preschool would have nature as one of its core values.  She wanted to bring nature and wild play back to early childhood.  Theresa loves her work with teachers, families and children. Theresa earned a Masters of Teaching in Special Education from Pace University and a Masters of Fine Arts from Harvard University.  She is a dedicated teacher both at the pre-school and elementary school level with over 10 years of experience in inclusive classrooms.  She is a Teach for America alum and has been a teacher at The River School in New York City, P.S. 86 in the Bronx and at KIPP Infinity Charter School in Harlem.  She has studied many early childhood pedagogies including the Reggio Emilia approach, and Waldorf and Montessori models. She has also trained in the Coyote Mentoring way with the Wilderness Awareness School.  Theresa was selected to be a part of the Early Childhood Hall of Heroes through the Childcare Council and is a participant in the Leadership Westchester Fellowship Program.  Theresa is passionate about the nature preschool movement, building community, and play!