The Children’s Nature Institute (CNI) offers fun and educational guided Family Walks through some of Los Angeles’ most beautiful natural parks. I decided to give one a try this past weekend – at Franklin Canyon Park in Beverly Hills.
In spite of the high temperatures and my son’s lingering cold symptoms, we really enjoyed ourselves. That’s thanks in part to our terrific volunteer walk leader, Debbie. Here’s what I learned along the way to help ensure a great experience for your little ones:
Start at the Nature Center: The Nature Center is very kid-friendly and offers plenty of hands-on activities and a chance to get acquainted with the surrounding plant and wildlife. The kids touched a snake’s skin, saw a stuffed mountain lion and learned a little about water conservation through some cool, interactive displays. There’s even a coloring corner and a library, plus staff on hand to suggest a trail and answer questions.
Establish some rules: Before we set off on our walk, Debbie took a few moments to review a few important things with the kids:
- Don’t destroy the natural surroundings with trash or misuse.
- Leave the trail with just memories.
- Stay on the trail.
- Don’t touch anything unless your leader says it’s okay.
- Follow the leader.
Start exploring: Debbie encouraged the kids to stop and look around every few hundred yards or so. It made me realize just how much there is to discover once you stop and look around.
We spotted a tree stump and talked about how you can figure out how old a tree is by the number of rings in the stump.
We looked under trees for pinecones and seeds and talked about where they came from, why they were there and what animals might eat them. We touched tree bark to feel differences between types of trees. We even saw coyote poop!
Don’t miss the ducks: The highlight of our walk had to be the ducks and turtles that inhabit Heavenly Pond, a short stroll from the Nature Center.
We followed the path that circles the pond and had a blast pointing out ducks and turtles as the kids spotted them.
There were picnic tables, a bathroom and drive-up parking to make me think this would be a perfect spot to come back to in the future.
Keep it simple: It was a nice change of pace to be outdoors with a guide who did her best to answer all the kid’s questions (and my, did they have questions!). But the truth is, you don’t need to have a degree in botany or geology to help your kids enjoy the outdoors. The most important thing you can do is to just get out there!