By now, most parents and caregivers have likely exhausted a long list of ideas to keep children–young and old–occupied and content. Here is something that may help with that!
Besides CMSMatHome, a daily prompt for play and hands-on learning, the Children’s Museum of Southern Minnesota now has one more exciting project to offer: Prairie’s Edge Exploration Backpacks, a take-home activity that promotes nature-based play. This program, funded by Minnesota Department of Natural Resources No Child Left Inside mini grant, is available to both Museum members and non-members, free of charge (security deposit required).
What Are These Backpacks All About?
According to our original testers, two sets of siblings (ages 3 through 7), these backpacks are a lot of fun! Each backpack contains child-sized binoculars, large and small bug viewer, magnifying glass, fold-up mesh bug habitat, nature activity cards, measuring tape, first aid kit, and more! During the testing phase, the backpacks traveled to 7 Mile Creek Park, Red Jacket Trail Park, Minneopa State Park Bison Range, several neighborhood parks, and a couple back (and front) yards, giving our young explorers a variety of opportunities to explore the world around them.
The binoculars and magnifying glasses were a huge hit, allowing the children to take a closer look at flowers, bugs, bison at Minneopa State Park, or the environment as a whole. Kneeling down to observe an ant trying to carry a piece of food, or watching tall prairie grasses sway in the wind (with a magnifying glass, of course!) are just some of the experiences Prairie’s Edge Backpacks were able to enhance. There was a lot of laughter, along with some frustration, as we watched a newly-turned four year old try to catch a fly and then keep it contained inside of the mesh habitat, as well as some panic when a large ant escaped a bug viewer during a car ride.
Each backpack, crafted by the Museum’s volunteer sewing team, comes with a Junior Park Naturalist booklet. This material about prairies, issued by MN DNR, offers easy to read information about prairies. Children who can read can do their own learning and keep notes about their research and exploration. These booklets are for each family to keep.
Need One of These? You Sure Do!
Check out the video below to see some of the moments captured on the four young explorers’ trip to local parks and trails, then consider checking out one of the backpacks, too. Follow this link to sign up right away, as the pilot program is scheduled to run only through the end of May. Curbside, contact-free pickup is available on Thursdays during the month of May, from 10 am until noon.