There was digging, balancing, running, crawling and jumping.
There was water carrying, fort building and bridge construction.
There was exploring, discovery, caution and curiosity.
There was smiling, talking, gasps of excitement, and so, so, so much laughter.

All of this and more happened during a recent Family Nature Club program in Papago Park! Hosted by Phoenix Zoo educators, the Family Nature Club nature play program takes place near (but not in) the Zoo and beyond. The program is a glorious mashup of social club, play date and outdoor adventure, where children of all ages along with their caregivers spend time discovering the wonders of Arizona nature through play.
 
The benefits of playing in and with nature are extensive. Children develop gross motor skills by moving over uneven terrain and carrying armfuls of leaves. They develop fine motor skills by carefully peeling bark from a small stick or by trying to catch a crawfish from a stream. They build strength and dexterity by jumping off tree stumps and hanging from tree branches. Even eyesight can be developed and strengthened by assessing distance and depth and height and movement while playing in a natural landscape. Children develop cognitively as they learn about the natural world and experiment with problem solving during play. They develop interpersonal skills and self-awareness as they interact with peers, control their own agendas through play, discover personal limitations and then challenge themselves by assessing and taking risks at their own pace.
 
One of the best parts of this program is that it can be FREE! With support from a grant from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, the Phoenix Zoo is pleased to offer family fee waivers* for the Family Nature Club programs.
 
Our next program will be in Mesa at the Park of the Canals on Sunday, January 15th from 1 – 3 p.m.
 
*To request a fee waiver and register for a Family Nature Club Program, please call the Phoenix Zoo Reservations Department at 602.914.4333. There is no application process or qualifications a family must meet to receive a fee waiver; families must simply request a fee waiver when calling to register for the program. Please note: Fee waivers are limited and offered on a first-come, first-served basis. To help keep our club inclusive and accessible for all, we ask that you please refrain from requesting a fee waiver if your family is able to afford the program fee ($4/person). Thank you!
 
Register for the Family Nature Club and the Growing Up Wild program online or by calling the Phoenix Zoo Reservations Department at 602.914.4333 .
 
Did you know the Phoenix Zoo also offers Growing Up Wild training for early childhood educators and parents? Adults can make it a weekend adventure of playing in and learning about nature by also joining us on Saturday, January 14 from 8:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. at the Phoenix Zoo.