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22 Mar, Wednesday
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Montreal Families

Camp allows kids to explore the outdoors

As the weather gets warmer and the days get longer, it seems like everyone wants to get outside to play. Outdoor programs and experiences for kids and adults surged during the pandemic, and a local day camp is taking advantage of the city’s large nature parks for a summer of fun.

At Child in the Wild Nature Day Camp, the child-directed, nature-based play program is set among the mature trees and lush fields of Montreal’s Mount Royal and Maisonneuve Parks. Children ages 5-12 will be  immersed in explorative play using the resources of the forest as well as the creativity of the children. In an environment that is diverse and forever changing, each day offers new opportunities for connection with the natural world.

Camp returning for second year

Trinati, the founder of the camp who goes by her first name only, has more than 28 years of teaching experience, degrees in education and environmental education, She also spent 11 years as the owner of daycares and preschools in Toronto and Montreal. She says she was inspired to move her Garden Grow Playschool outdoors two years ago when she realized pandemic restrictions wouldn’t allow the children to sing inside.

“We started with one day a week with kids who were as young as two and a half. Napping outside and everything,”  Trinati says. “It was really amazing. I noticed such a beautiful emergence of self-esteem and self-confidence, and creativity and connectivity.”

With the help and encouragement of a parent, the playschool experience evolved into last summer’s nature day camp where Trinati and counsellors facilitated the campers’ connection to the earth and helped inspire young protectors of the planet.

Camp days filled with exploration

A typical day at Child in the Wild Nature Day Camp begins with campers meeting at the playground on Mount Royal and then heading onto the mountain. Trinati says she believes in child-led play so, for example, if the children feel they want to stop for a morning snack, they pause and enjoy that time together.

After snack time, the campers and counsellors continue their exploration. “We observe the whole time and go nice and slow,” Trinati says. Campers find a spot to land for the day where they might set about making a lean-to out of fallen branches, or string up a tarp for a shady spot. “Then campers are free to explore within a radius. As long as they can see us, that’s as far as they can venture.” Each camper wears a bright orange bucket hat that helps them be seen within the trees and also offers protection from the sun and rain.

Children spend the day outside creating, building, and using their imaginations. The counsellors provide opportunities for outdoor skill development, forest therapy, and cooperative games that follow the children’s lead. Campers might also observe the forest from a different view while laying on their backs, practice mindfulness, make nature medallions, draw or write in their sketchbook, go on a scavenger hunt, do  face-painting, make and share friendship bracelets, wander and play.

On some days, campers meet at Maisonneuve Park where they mingle with the sheep who graze there during the summer, balance on slacklines, climb trees, and play games.

The camp runs outside in all weather. On especially hot days, campers might play in the splash pad at Mount-Royal’s Salamander Playground. In wet weather, the kids splash about in puddles and dance in the rain. The philosophy that Trinati shares and that is repeated at nature-based schools worldwide is that “there’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing.”

Children are given the chance to explore through active play, and encouraged to learn at their own pace — all of which helps foster children’s physical and mental well-being and creates memories that will last a lifetime.

“[Last year] we noticed kids who were maybe were a little bit intimidated by bugs, dirt, rain, or big groups of people,” Trinati said. “But by the end of the first day, all of that had really dissipated. There’s something about being outdoors and being connected to nature that brings one’s true essence to life.”

Additional offerings

Through her Mother in the Wild website, Trinati also offers breathwork classes for children and adults, yoga courses, parent/educator consulting, personalized consulting, and a “Weekly Tune-In” where everyone from teens to retirees meet online to practice yoga, breath, and meditation. And, after pausing her playschool for the past year to focus on her yoga teacher training, Trinati will be reopening this September. She aims to offer a preschool that encompasses a component where homeschoolers can drop in a couple of times a week for cross-curricular projects facilitated by herself and student teachers.

Each camp week runs from Monday to Thursday on select weeks in summer 2022.

The registration fee includes snacks and lunches.

For more information, visit motherinthewild.com.

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