Get your children outside this summer

Photo of naturalists giving a program in the outdoor amphitheater

If you’re looking for something educational to occupy your children’s time this summer, look no further than the Dickinson County Nature Center.

Free youth programming is held each week at the nature center in Okoboji — Nature Tots for ages 2-5, Nature Explorers for ages 6-9 and Young Naturalists for ages 10-12.

“I love that our programs are fun, but what I find to be the best part of the programs is when I see the light bulb go on for a child and an activity we are doing sparks their interest,” said naturalist Mary Petersen. “Kids learn through play and activities more than we realize, so even when we don’t see an immediate response to an activity, their little minds are soaking up more than we think. But to see that light bulb moment is very exciting for me.”

Light bulbs are brightening during each Nature Tots, held year-round at 10:30 a.m. the second Wednesday of each month. Dozens of toddlers and their guardians gather together to read stories, play games, make crafts and explore the outdoors.

The next Nature Tots, held 10:30 a.m. Wednesday, July 13, will encourage kids to get dirty, so make sure to dress toddlers in old clothes for the Get Muddy program. The Nature Tots program will also be held at 10:30 a.m. Aug. 10, Sept. 14, Oct. 12, Nov. 9 and Dec. 14.

Nature Explorers are getting Wet & Wild this summer, learning all about water during the program, held at 10:30 a.m. bi-weekly. For the next program at 10:30 a.m. Thursday, July 7, explorers will get an up-close view of the Microscopic Water World, seeing all the tiny creatures we don’t realize are living in our lakes, rivers and wetlands.

Nature Explorers will be also be held 10:30 a.m. Thursday, July 21 and Aug. 4, and Petersen is especially looking forward to the final Wet & Wild program, Experimenting with H2O.

“I enjoy any opportunity to set up fun labs and then let kids dive in and investigate what’s happening in a given setting,” she said.

Older kids will also have the opportunity to get outside this summer for the Outdoor Survival-themed Young Naturalists program held 1 p.m. June 30, July 14, July 28 and Aug. 11. Each session will focus on a different survival theme, and naturalist Charles Vigdal is looking forward to building survival shelters during the June 30 program. He plans to implement teamwork, science and engineering skills all while having fun outdoors.

Young Naturalists, Nature Explorers and Nature Tots are all free, one-hour programs. Please pre-register children by calling 712-336-6352. You can also keep up with the latest happenings on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

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