The vision of San Diego Children and Nature is that all early childhood centers, schools, and not-in-school settings will have natural play areas, and children will spend 60 minutes of unstructured time outdoors in nature every day. Families will increase the amount of time they spend outdoors in nature, and every community in the county will have easy access to a family nature club. Parks will have natural play spaces and children will be encouraged to explore natural areas surrounding the more traditional play areas.
Check Out Nature Backpack Program
Hey Families! Create your own adventure and spend time exploring the outdoors through our Check Out Nature Backpack Program! You can reserve a backpack, just like you would a book or basketball, from one of four library systems listed below. The backpacks are filled with high quality nature materials including binoculars, field guides, bug kit, compass, and more. Whether you’re identifying animal tracks or scat, observing and learning about local San Diego species, from birds, to insects, or mammals, or trying to get up close to another interesting organism, the backpack materials will enhance your experience! Once you take the time to slow down and observe, you are guaranteed to be surprised by what you notice.
To get started, Go to one of the locations listed below to check out a backpack:
San Diego Library system: SD City Library Reserve
National City Library: National City Library Reserve
Oceanside Library system: Oceanside Library Reserve
Coronado Library: Coronado Library Reserve
Escondido Library system: coming soon
Chula Vista Library system: coming soon
Onsite Day Use Available:
Santa Ysabel Nature Center
22135 Highway 79
Want the program to come to your local library or nature center? Email gro.erutandnanerdlihcdsnull@ofnI.
To learn more about where to explore, go to one of the following websites for ideas:
Get Outside San Diego – Find a park(s) to explore near you! See which parks or protected nature space in San Diego County has hiking, fishing, camping, play areas or other types of recreation. The website works on mobile devices.
City of San Diego Parks and Recreation – Watch these videos for nature spots, safety tips and more.
Wildlife Explorers Workbook – Download this workbook to get ideas for outdoor exploration activities.
Family Adventures In Nature (FAN)
Family Adventures in Nature is a local, informal San Diego County volunteer group dedicated to providing opportunities for families to spend time in nature. Why spend time in nature? Thanks to local renowned author Richard Louv and his book Last Child in the Woods, we know that direct exposure to nature is essential for a child’s healthy physical and emotional development.
To expand our reach and increase programming, we are currently seeking volunteers to serve as Assistant Organizers to help schedule and coordinate family excursions in nature. These excursions can be as simple as organizing a field trip to a local park, or a weekend camping adventure in the desert.
Program Goals and Objectives
- Build Community
- Connect families to nature experiences
- Develop a lifelong love of nature
- Become stewards of our planet
Provide education through play and direct experience
FAN’s goal is to provide a welcoming and supportive group environment for families with children to enjoy nature together. Although we welcome kids up to the age of seventeen, our events typically attract families with kids in pre-K to early middle school age.
To join the San Diego Family in Nature Meetup Group, go here.
If you are interested in becoming trained as an assistant organizer and leading programs in your own community, please email gro.erutandnanerdlihcdsnull@ofni for more information.
Nature at Home
How can we create the world in which all children play, learn, and grow with nature in their everyday lives? Start at home!
- Take time with your young children, starting with these ideas from Green Hearts.
- Create a Loose Parts Nature Play area with a collection of nature materials such as bamboo poles, sticks, tree cookies, pine cones, shells, and palm fronds. Loose Parts Nature Play encourages children to build anything—teepees, tunnels, fairy houses, art sculptures and other play structures. The only limit is the imagination!
- Put a piece of carpet or old non-rubberized bath mat on dirt, and keep it wet. After a few weeks, turn it over and see what lives there!
- Start a compost bin, as children love worms!
- Develop a backyard habitat with native plants. For more information about gardening with native plants, visit California Native Plant Society San Diego.
San Diego’s nature extends from the beaches and estuaries in the west to the desert in the east. In between are coastal sage scrub, chaparral, riparian woodlands, oak woodlands, and mixed conifer forests. Locate nearby natural areas to visit and enjoy San Diego’s nature. Choose nature programs offered by local nature educators and collaborative partners. Find community gardens. Plan your own field trip with your class or youth group with the Nearby Nature School Field Trip Guidebook. Enhance the nature in your daily lives.
North County Nature Places lists beaches, lakes, trails, gardens, and parks in northern San Diego County. Mid-County Nature Places lists these places in mid- and East County.
The Pocket Naturalist Guide for Chaparral Shrublands of Southern California has 110 of San Diego’s most common animals and plants. Children and adults alike enjoy learning the names and recognizing what they see in nature. The Guide was developed by the SDCaN and can be purchased online at Acorn Naturalists.
- Natural Families Initiative from the Children & Nature Network (C&NN)
- Where Nature Meets Story by Sara St. Antoine, assembled for C&NN, with activities, relevant books, and stories for kids of every age.
- Master Gardener Association of San Diego County, for gardening guides and workshops.