My family thoroughly enjoys exploring the wilderness of the Farm Park regardless of the weather. The Farm Park is such a natural gem and we are so very fortunate to have it in our community.
Our first stop of any hike is always the bridge underpass nearest the pavilions; my son calls it “Echo Caves”. He will stand under the stone archway and listen to his voice bounce off of the walls as he continues to bellow the word - echo! We continue on to the “fishing hole” where we skip stones, a game which quickly becomes “who can hit the far shoreline with their rock first”; he is usually the winner of this particular contest.
As the seasons change so does the many adventures and discoveries that nature beholds in our small and wonderful farm park. Winter is the perfect time to take a creek walk with your child and the Norristown Farm Park offers many opportunities to visit the creek up close. Winter tends to lend itself to muddy and/or snow covered banks on the water’s edge that creates a canvas of animal tracks of the elusive visitors to the creek. Using an animal tracking guide we discover the animals and their activities, and though we may never encounter the being that made the prints, we can guess about its life. Rambling through the thickets and over moss covered logs, taking a moment to walk the length of the log as though it were a balance beam – then splash waterproof boots enter the creek!! Navigating and jumping over smooth creek rocks to reach the yet-to-be explored far side of the creek. Stopping to discover an opened freshwater clam shell, he enthusiastically shows us his new find, yet another nature treasure for his collection. In the distance, we hear Great Horned owls hooting and nesting in an old sycamore tree, preparing for their clutch of eggs that will soon arrive. We spot the thick hairy rope of the poison ivy root twisting and turning up the trunk of the tree, my son knows – do not touch! He finds a downed limb and breaks off a branch that now becomes his walking stick as he continues along the creek side, half aquatic and half terrestrial. Once we have explored enough for the day, we continue our walk back through the meadow where many a bird can be seen and heard, flying back and forth through the skeletons of last year’s plants, eating seeds, and calling to one another. Back to our car, exhilarated, muddy and a little wet, but better off for the day spent wandering through the woods!
Outdoor exploration in nature allows for unstructured play, generating a sense of freedom, independence and inner strength. Playing in the outdoors boosts problem-solving skills, focus and self-discipline; it improves cooperation, flexibility, and self-awareness. Children will be healthier and happier when they have regular opportunities for free and unstructured play in the out-of-doors. Hope to see you at the farm park soon – we will be there, probably a little wet, perhaps a little muddy, but always happy!