Two Local Outdoor Gems for the Kids

We are approaching the long, lazy days of summer when schedules are less structured and we can trade time in front of the tv for precious moments running through sprinklers and chasing bugs. If you are looking for an outdoor adventure away from your backyard and local playgrounds, there are many options to choose among in our area. From shady trails through the woods to the neatly patterned rows of crops on a farm, there are exciting and interesting sites to behold that will nurture curiosity and force everyone to slow down and look closely at the wonders of summer while they last. Here is a snapshot of two beautiful spaces to visit with your little ones.

Broadmoor Wildlife Sanctuary

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This wildlife sanctuary, which is part of the Mass Audubon Society, has over nine miles of trails. Broadmoor is located nearby at 280 Eliot Street in Natick and is the perfect place to burn off some energy outside where you can bring in some educational focus. By observing plants and wildlife that live in the different parts of the sanctuary, you’ll be introducing your child to the concept of habitats. Some highlights of the area include beaver dams, nesting wood ducks and basking turtles! Walking through the forest can bring some much needed relief from the heat and you can talk about the different living things you see and compare them to the other parts of the trail such as the wetlands along the boardwalk. This is also a great way to practice skills like looking and listening while being very quiet and tip-toeing to have the best chance at spotting things like chipmunks and waterfowl. Nature walks also feed the imagination! I used to love pretending that fairies and gnomes were hiding among the moss and mushrooms on the forest floor only to come out and dance when no one was looking!

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Finally, be sure to tie in a quick lesson on respecting our natural environment. In order to maintain the beauty of the trails at Broadmoor and to ensure the safety of all the living things that call it home, they ask that people refrain from running, that they eat only in designated picnic areas and carry out all trash. Visitors are encouraged to bring plenty of water and to wear practical clothing and footwear.

Natick Community Organic Farm

This farm is definitely unlike any I had visited in the Massachusetts area. To say that it is off the beaten path would be an understatement; in fact, the only thing you will find to follow when you get there is a beaten dirt path that leads to the spaces where their various animals are housed. There is no prominent information desk to greet you because your visit is free. Don’t expect any posted information aside from signs warning you not put your fingers in the rabbit cages. The reason for this is not that they are inhospitable but that this is a working farm, which gives it a level of authenticity and uniqueness that is refreshing because it is stripped of any commercial efforts (though there is an area where you can purchase organic produce from their many gardens!)

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I took my two and three year old here for a visit and felt as though time slowed down. Since there are no paved roads and because the area is so far set back from the actual road, I let my children wander. It was such an unusual feeling to be able to let my guard down somewhere outside of my own backyard. I couldn’t help think about how the uneven ground and musty animal smells were so good for their senses. We looked in the barn and found a stall swarmed with fluffy chicks, then followed the path to the rabbit kennels and up toward the chicken coop and then to the pastures where goats and kids were grazing. Our favorite part was watching two enormous pigs fighting over the food scraps in one trough. We peeked through greenhouse windows to see the bright green seedlings all lined up, waiting to be planted in the freshly prepared rows of the nearby fields. Just observing the habits of these animals in this very rustic environment made the twenty minute drive well worth it.

Our guide, Heather, was extremely knowledgable and patient!

Of course, my kids wanted to do more than look at all these farm animals, so I inquired about group tours and organized a field trip for our playgroup. For $7 a child, with a minimum of six children, they will assign a teacher to your group and give you a guided tour of the farm. Our focus was on learning about and petting baby animals and aside from the challenge to follow their no running and no screaming rules—it was a huge success!

This mama cow was due to have her baby any day!

About the Author

Liza d’Hemecourt is the blog coordinator for Parent Talk. She formerly taught kindergarten and first grade and now stays home full time with her two children. Liza and her family live in Needham.

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