Children and Nature

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Giving children the chance to explore the world of nature is a gift that will last a lifetime.
Playing outside allows your child to:

  1. Appreciate the wonders of the natural world
  2. Challenge themselves physically
  3. Learn life skills- curiosity, creativity, empathy
  4. Discover nature’s laws

Children and Nature: Hiking on Dad's ShouldersThis guide to nature activities and experiences:

Nature Activities and Experiences (PDF) created by Diane Gordon, Director of Children, Nature and YOU, provides simple activities that will engage both grown-ups and children, while introducing nature concepts and experiences.

For more ideas and inspiration, consult the Children, Nature and YOU website.

Neighborhood Parks

Taking a walk in the park can be fun, relaxing and a wonderful way to spend time with a child. Parks offer many opportunities to let children explore and enjoy nature. Check with your city’s Parks and Recreation Department (listed in phone book) for information.

Enjoying Nature Around the Bay

San Mateo County

  • Coyote Point Recreational Area, San Mateo. In addition to picnicking, swimming, windsurfing, bicycling, jogging, boating, and sailing, visitors can enjoy the beach area, and visit the saltwater marsh and its shorebirds. Coyote Point Recreational Area is home to CuriOdyssey, an environmental museum of the Bay Area, which provides engaging educational experiences with wildlife, gardens, special exhibitions and educational programs. 1961 Coyote Point Drive, San Mateo. 94401. Recreational Area: (650) 573-2592. Museum: (650) 342-7755
  • Central Park, San Mateo. San Mateo's premiere urban oasis features several playgrounds, rose garden, arboretum, Japanese tea garden, and other recreational services. 50 E. 5th Avenue, San Mateo 94010. (650) 522-7530.

Palo Alto

  • Palo Alto Junior Museum and Zoo provides children with an array of nature and science experiences to engage their minds and increase their critical thinking skills. Offerings include an interactive museum exhibit, a natural habitat zoo and educational programs. 1451 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto, 94301. (650) 329 2111.
  • Palo Alto Baylands. This 1,940 acre Baylands Preserve is the largest tract of undisturbed marshland remaining in the San Francisco Bay, with access to a unique mixture of tidal and freshwater habitats. Facilities include: Lucy Evans Baylands Nature Interpretive Center, Byxbee Park Hills, the Emily Renzel Wetlands, and a duck pond. Embarcadero Road, Palo Alto, 94303. (650) 329 2506.

Los Altos / Los Altos Hills

  • David C. Daniels Nature Center, Los Altos Hills. The Daniels Nature Center serves as the starting point for exploring the environment of Alpine Pond and surrounding Skyline Ridge Open Space Preserve. The Nature Center offers informative exhibits and activities, including a creative mural featuring pond dwellers and their food chains, a hands on lab corner and touchable wildlife skulls and skins. Alpine Road and Skyline Boulevard. (650) 691 1200.
  • Hidden Villa, Los Altos Hills. This special 1600 acre farm and wilderness preserve in Los Altos Hills is the site for a variety of programs teaching environmental and multicultural awareness. Here visitors can walk in the woods, enjoy the beauty of the Santa Cruz Mountains, meet large friendly farm animals, and visit the produce garden. 26870 Moody Road, Los Altos Hills, 94022. (650) 949 8650.
  • Rancho San Antonio Open Space Preserve. This 165 acre County Park offers visitors a unique experience, with a sampling of diverse environments and a variety of activities. The preserve is home to Deer Hollow Farm, a working farm with pigs, goats, sheep, chickens and other animals, as well as numerous turn of the century ranch buildings. Rancho San Antonio Preserve: Cristo Rey Drive, Cupertino 95014. (650) 0691 1200. Deer Hollow Farm: 7550 Saint Joseph Avenue, Los Altos, 94024. (650) 903 6430.
  • Redwood Grove Nature Preserve/Shoup Park. A six acre nature preserve, the park includes a boardwalk and trail that follows Adobe Creek and winds among the majestic redwood trees, a hillside trail, observation decks, picnic tables, and rose and herb gardens. 482 University Avenue, Los Altos, 94022. (650) 947 2790.

Mountain View

  • Shoreline At Mountain View is a 660 acre regional recreation and wildlife area where visitors can enjoy seven miles of paved trails, the most beautiful of which snakes around Shoreline Lake and out toward the Palo Alto flood basin. Wildlife sightings may include jackrabbits, egrets, herons and pheasants. 3070 N. Shoreline Boulevard, Mountain View, 94043. (650) 903 6392.


  • Sunnyvale Baylands Park. The City of Sunnyvale's Baylands Park provides over seventy acres of developed parkland offering active recreation, pathways, and picnic areas for families and large groups. An additional 105 acres of seasonal wetlands is protected as a Wetlands Preserve providing habitat for plants and wildlife. 999 East Caribbean Drive, Sunnyvale, 94089. (408) 730 7709.

Santa Clara

    Children and Nature: Drawing of a Hummingbird
  • Ulistac Park, City of Santa Clara. Located along the Guadalupe River, and with public access to a creekside trail along the river, this 40 acre open space park features several distinctive natural habitats, including grasslands, woodlands, wet lands and savannah. Visitors can also enjoy the butterfly and hummingbird garden. 4901, Lick Mill Boulevard.


  • Ed R. Levin County Park, Milpitas. This 1,539 acre park combines the traditional features of an urban park such as picnicking, fishing and play areas, with a complex regional trail. Expansive lawn and lake areas make this an ideal spot for family outings, while the rolling grasslands and oak woodlands provide spectacular views of the valley floor, San Francisco Bay and the Diablo Range. 3100 Calaveras Road, Milpitas, 95035. (408) 262-6980.

San Jose

  • Emma Prusch Farm Park, San José. A 47 acre park featuring farm animals and a livestock barn, community gardens, open areas perfect for picnicking and kite flying, an orchard of rare fruit trees and a grove of international trees. 647 South King Road, San José, 95116-3557. (408) 926 5555.
  • Alum Rock Park, San José. In the foothills of the Diablo Range, the park offers acres of natural rugged beauty as well as lawn areas for picnics. The Youth Science Institute, housed within the park, hosts an animal museum and provides youth science and nature programs. The park: 15350 Penitencia Creek Road, San José, 95127. (408) 277-4539. The Youth Science Institute: 16260, Penitencia Creek Road, San José, 95127. (408) 258-4322.
  • Overfelt Gardens, San José. In addition to housing the Overfelt House and Visitor Center and the Chinese Cultural Garden, this park offers natural wildlife sanctuaries amid peaceful pond settings, surrounded by beautiful trees, shrubs and flowering plants. A wonderful spot for nature photography. 2145 McKee Road, San José, 95133. (408) 251-3323.
  • Guadalupe River Park and Gardens, San José. Following the course of the Guadalupe River in the heart of downtown San José, the park extends for 3 miles. Within the park is a historic rose garden, historic orchard, extensive varietal gardens and community garden plots. Visitors may see egrets, herons, kingfishers and a variety of wildlife while exploring the park. Friends of Guadalupe River Park & Gardens offer a variety of educational programs. 438 Coleman Ave, San José, CA 95110. (408) 298-7657.

Los Gatos

  • Lake Vasona Park, Los Gatos. As well as enjoying picnic and play areas visitors can explore the hiking and biking trails, rent a row boat or paddle boat to explore the lake or simply sit and enjoy the natural surroundings. The Youth Science Institute, housed within the park, teaches science to young people by using nature to focus on the delicate interrelationship of people and the natural world. The Viola Anderson Native Plant Trail provides information on plants native to Northern California.The Park: 333 Blossom Hill Road, Los Gatos, 95032. (408) 356-2729. Youth Science Institute: 296 Garden Hill Drive, Los Gatos, 95032. (408) 356-4945.

Additional Resources

The San Francisco Bay Area has an abundance of nature-rich county, regional, state and national parks.

  • San Mateo County Parks and Recreation Department. (650) 363-4020.
  • Santa Clara County Parks and Recreation Department. (408) 355-2200.
  • Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District is a regional greenbelt system in the San Francisco Bay Area. It comprises 50,000 acres of land in 25 open space preserves in one of the largest metropolitan areas in the country. (650) 691-1200.
  • The San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge Complex. From sand dunes to salt marsh, from offshore islands to beaches, the San Francisco Bay NWR Complex seeks to protect the biological wonders of the San Francisco Bay Area.
  • The Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge, an urban wildlife refuge, is dedicated to preserving and enhancing wildlife habitat around the shoreline of the San Francisco Bay. (510) 792 0222.
  • The East Bay Regional Park District has 65 parks and 29 regional inter-park trails covering more than 97,000 acres in Alameda and Contra Costa counties, ensuring the preservation of the natural beauty of the land and the preservation of wildlife habitat on the eastern side of San Francisco Bay. (510) 562-PARK.
  • California State Parks
    800-777-0369 or 916-653-6995.
  • National Parks
    (888) 693-9391.
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