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Family Fun: Hiking With The Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center

By Michelle Gallerani

Publication: theday.com

Published May 23. 2012 4:00AM   Updated May 23. 2012 9:33AM

For the month of May, we decided to participate in a weekly "hiking class" offered through the Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center. I signed Little Man up for the Cottontails program for 2-4 year olds, which was $50 for five one hour hikes at various trails in the area.

In deciding whether or not to sign him up, I polled my Facebook community and everyone had great things to say about the nature center. One friend said "you will never regret doing things outside with your kids", and that pretty much made my decision.

Every Thursday morning, we head out with a handful of other toddlers for our hikes. The Animal gets thrown in the baby carrier and spends most of the time nursing and sleeping. So far, we have hiked at the Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center in Mystic, Avalonia's Tefftweald at Birchenturn in North Stonington, and Beebe Pond in Groton. We have two more hikes scheduled at Henne Preserve in North Stonington and Bluff Point State Park in Groton.

Little Man loves hiking class. He loves to run around in the woods, he loves to see water, he loves to look for critters. I love that we are able to be outside and explore places that I otherwise would have probably never known about. Also, I would not feel comfortable hiking alone with both kids, so this group definitely gives us an opportunity we wouldn't otherwise have.

I am (surprisingly) the only parent with more than one child. I will say that it is a little challenging to wrangle a toddler in the woods while wearing a nine-month old on your chest, but totally do-able. It would be even easier if said toddler was not a mini-Steve Irwin, trying to kiss snakes and such (I only wish that were an exaggeration).

An hour-long hike goes surprisingly fast. The instructor takes the time to point out different bugs, plants, frogs, and snakes. Turns out two and a half-year-old boys (well, at least mine...) are kind of like Lenny from "Of Mice And Men", so we are definitely working on using GENTLE hands to touch things from nature. He is absolutely learning from hike to hike. I was beyond excited when, two weeks after the fact Little Man noticed ferns in the woods around our house and said "HEY! Like hiking class!!"

I would STRONGLY recommend this program to anyone with toddlers in the house. It is a great way to get outside, teach your kid about nature and learn more about local trails. According to this schedule, there are a bunch of new programs for the summer. So get outside, have fun and tell me about your adventures!

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