New Nature Playgroup for Toddlers at Burlington's Rock Point

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Julie Garwood’s toddler, Porter, visiting the trails at Rock Point. - JULIE GARWOOD
  • Julie Garwood
  • Julie Garwood’s toddler, Porter, visiting the trails at Rock Point.

Toddlers and their caregivers looking to explore nature and experience breathtaking views can find both at a new outdoor playgroup in Burlington.

Rock Point is offering a new weekly nature playgroup this fall for little ones ages 2 to 4. The group will meet every Wednesday from 9:15 to 10 a.m., from September 8 to October 13, at the Rock Point Center.

Caregivers and toddlers can gather on the 130-acre property, owned by the Episcopal Church in Vermont and filled with trails overlooking Lake Champlain. Each session will kick-off with some loosely structured outdoor games and will include a short hike on the toddler-friendly Holy Trinity Trail.

Marketing coordinator Julie Garwood, the former camp director at Rock Point, will be leading families on the hike and plans to incorporate some scavenger-hunt-type games to help little ones search for things in nature. Garwood is a toddler-mom herself and will be bringing along her 2-year-old.

“A lot of parents, similar to myself, are working through whether or not to put their kids into any type of formal programming right now, unsure of what tomorrow will bring in terms of COVID,” said Garwood. She explained that the playgroup will allow toddlers and caregivers the opportunity to socialize while wearing masks and keeping a safe distance.

This will be the first time Rock Point has held any youth programming since it closed down its camps due to COVID-19. Garwood hopes this will be the beginning of many more toddler activities at Rock Point, which has never offered programs for this age group. Garwood said she welcomes parent input to create toddler programming that best serves the needs of families.

“I think parents are really struggling with the lack of community over the last year and a half. This is an opportunity to connect and see not only the milestones that their kids are hitting, or not hitting, but also that it’s really normal for it to be really hard with a toddler. I hope it meets all of those needs for parents,” said Garwood.

The playgroup is donation-based and has limited capacity. In fact, the website indicates that registration is full, but invites those who are interested to sign up for a wait list — organizers are considering adding additional programming. Find more information, and sign up here.

Other Free Nature Playgroups happening this fall:

Audubon Vermont’s ‘Free Nature Playgroup’ Audubon Vermont is resuming its free nature playgroup to provide children and families an opportunity to visit the forest, meadow, beaver pond, rivers and peeper pond on the Audubon Center's 255 acres in Huntington. Some of the trails are stroller-friendly while others are not. Every week there will be a snack, story and a nature activity such going to the pond and scooping, going to the river and making boats or studying bears and turkeys. Children ages 0 to 5 and their caregivers are welcome — sorry, no older siblings. The group will meet on Tuesdays from 9:30-11 am. It will start mid-September and be ongoing. It will meet at the Sugarhouse parking lot on Main Road in Huntington. Exact directions will be given upon sign up. Find more information here or email Rae.Bronenkant@audubon.org with questions.

Robin’s Nest North Branch Nature Center Children ages 0 to 5 and their caregivers will continue to gather at the North Branch Nature Center, a 28-acre preserve of forest and fields, just two miles from downtown Montpelier. In this free playgroup, toddlers play, dig, build and explore through songs, crafts and oral storytelling. The group will meet weekly beginning in September or October. Details are still being worked out but will be posted here when ready.

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