Walking Mountains Science Center programs include interests of all ages. The youngest program, Nature Tykes, begins for toddlers 6 months old and ranges to 3 years old. The nature-focused program alternates different themes each week to pique the interest of toddlers as well as their guardians.
Creatures of all kinds have an impact on our ecosystem whether they have vibrantly painted wings or remain below the surface doing the dirty work. After long cold winters in Colorado’s dry climate, bugs buzz in the light of the warm sun. For some, spending time outdoors can lead to frustrations when one forgets their bug repellent but for Nature Tykes that is not the case. The littles are not only unbothered by creepy crawly insects but rather fascinated.
Nature Tykes mornings are filled with exploring the natural landscape, observing insects within the surrounding area, and a variety of crafty activities. One particular summer morning a small dirt-filled bucket awaits an explosion of toddler curiosity as it contains a squirmy surprise. Assisted by their guardians, the toddlers enter the classroom and their eyes widen like a kid in a candy shop. Their natural curiosity drew them in immediately. Within seconds they let go of their guardian’s hands to dig ruthlessly through the moistened dirt in search of the mysterious Common Earth Worm.
The Common Earth Worm wiggles through loose soil through the contraction and relaxation of two main muscles within its long, skinny body. After worms consume scraps such as leftover veggies, matter from dead plants, and coffee grounds, they process and break down organic matter further enriching nutrient levels within the soil. Various species of worms benefit our ecosystem despite our inability to see them hard at work. Additionally, beneath the surface tunnels formed by the squirmy insects provide greater support for plant roots to grow.
From all creatures buzzing and fluttering to wiggling and crawling the Nature Tykes program captures the attention of youthful curiosity through an array of sensory experiences. Allowing young children to explore the natural world is crucial for inspiring creativity, formulating critical thinking, and encouraging a greater appreciation for the outdoors. The developmental window for toddlers is centered around the use of their senses. While it is difficult for them to grasp an understanding of the role of a worm in our ecosystem, the exposure to new and different creatures firsthand expands an ongoing sense of wonder.
On Thursdays in Avon and Fridays in Gypsum, the Nature Tykes program focuses on differing topics from week to week allowing young kids to immerse themselves in the simplicity of nature. To join us in exploring, register through the Walking Mountains Science Center website.
Written by Frankie Marston. Frankie recently graduated high school at Vail Mountain School and interned over the summer at Walking Mountains Science Center.