Whether you have a toddler, a preschooler, or child who is now out of school for the summer, it’s time to get outside and play. The opportunities for enjoying nature abound here in the Oliver area. From swimming at any of the nearby lakes to taking your family dog out for a walk along the Okanagan River trail, it all adds to a child’s growth and connection to nature.
Nature can be as close as your own backyard. One fun activity is to play in the dirt. Simply set aside a section in the yard so the kids can play and dig in the soil.
Part of the beauty of dirt is that it washes away from hair, skin, and toenails. So dress your child in play clothes that can get dirty and encourage them to play freely, and without fear of getting dirty. Provide some small buckets, cups, spoons, shovels or natural objects like sticks, nuts, flower petals, and bark. What can they build? A volcano? A mountain? Animal shapes? Add water and watch how it reacts with your creations.
The squishy cool texture of mud is so fun to explore. How does it feel through their toes? Can they shape it? Encourage them to make pretend chocolate cookies, or to become potters and create cups and plates. It’s fun to also make impressions by pressing objects like leaves into the mud.
Another fun place to go to is the beach. Here, they can explore the sand. Help them build a castle; get creative and find twigs, leaves, stones and other objects to enhance the construction project. Help children use their imagination so that a leaf can become a boat, a stone can become a car or a horse, and so on.
The Oliver Parks and Recreation Society has several summer day camps where the children get to play outdoors. Swimming lessons at the pool are incredibly beneficial, as children can later use the skills in lakes and rivers. For youth, they offer kayaking classes at Vaseux Lake and an “activity scramble” program where girls have an opportunity to try different physical activities.
You can also take them on a nature walk, either down the Okanagan River channel or up to the old Fairview Town site. Take a few clear containers to collect and look at bugs, seeds, flowers, pine cones, or whatever other interesting things they find. A magnifying glass and a butterfly net are great additions to the tool kit. Be sure to teach them responsible and kind stewardship by releasing any critters they collected at the end of the hike. I always take a small garbage bag and we pick up litter that we find along the way.
Take the opportunity to learn about Canada’s only desert, visit the Osoyoos Desert Centre and take a guided walk where your family can learn about the local plants and animals. Alternatively, visit the Nk’Mip Desert Cultural Centre and enrol in one of their programs, including the live snakes program or guided walks. For older children weighing over 80 pounds, enjoy their rappelling in the desert” program, which explores cliffs and deserts.