The unique Tender Tracks outdoor preschool program honors and respects the inherent need for young children to have ample time with nature, in order to develop a healthy bond and relationship to the natural world and all who dwell therein. Through stories, songs and explorations, children go on playful adventures into the heart of nature.
Tender Tracks families drop off and pick up their children at various local natural settings. Children then participate in a morning circle with stories, songs, and snack to get ready for the adventures and explorations of the day. If it rains, students put on boots and rain gear! Extra clothes are always kept available so the children can change into dry things after wet or muddy adventures.
Spring is here! Take advantage of the weather and enjoy a day on the farm. We're lucky to live in an area that's surrounded by some of the country's top agricultural producers, and some of them offer farms tours for the whole family. On a tour, you can meet animals, learn where your food comes from, and find out about the efforts that local farmers take to provide us with high quality food. My kids love to visit farms, especially at this time of year when there are plenty of baby animals to see.
Here are some of the farms in Marin and Sonoma County that offer public tours. Some are free, and some require advance reservations. Please keep in mind that these are all real working farms, some of which raise animals for human consumption. All these tours are suitable for families.
2025 Shoreline Highway, Muir Beach 94965
(415) 381-6155 slideranch.org Overlooking the Pacific in Muir Beach, Slide Ranch is a real working farm located on the lands of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. Families can visit and explore the grounds, hike the trails, and have a picnic daily from dusk to dawn. The ranch also offers family programs, including Family Farm Days, campouts, and Toddler Days at various times throughout the year.
Petaluma's Tara Firma Farms is a family-run farm that produces humanely raised chickens, pigs, turkeys, and cattle on 300 acres just across the Sonoma County line. In addition to raising and selling their products, they're committed to educating the public about life on the farm, healthy food, and environmentally sustainable agriculture.
Tara Firma farms offers free farm tours on weekends at 10 am, noon, and 2 pm. The tours are a fantastic farm experience for parents, kids, and anyone who wants to get an up-close-and-personal look at where their food comes from. Come experience the sights, sounds, and, yes, smells of the farm first-hand!
Living in Marin, you don't have to look far for a summer camp that takes advantage of some of the amazing natural resources we have right in our own backyard. Parents have several outstanding nature and outdoors oriented summer camps to choose from. Here is a selection of some of our favorite day camps in Marin that have an emphasis on the outdoors and the natural world around us for ages 4 to 18. To find more fantastic summer camps, visit our 2015 Marin Summer Camp Guide.
Audubon Summer Adventures Camp is located at the Richardson Bay Audubon Center and Sanctuary in Tiburon. Camp sessions start June 8 and run through August 14. Week-long sessions for kids 4–9 take place from 9 am–2 pm, include themes like Amazing Predators, The Mighty Bay, Survivor, Shark Week, and Mud Warriors. Fees for these sessions are $340 per week. They also offer Expedition Camp ($385 per week) and On the Fly Camp ($340 per week) for children in grades 4–6, where campers deliver a little deeper into the varied habitats of Marin County and visit environments like the bay, ocean, redwood forest, and more. Extended hours untiil 5 pm are available for an additional cost. Visit their website for more information and to register.
This time of year always has a way of making us ready for the warm days of spring and summer. And of course with those thoughts of warm months come dreams of our spring and summer vegetable garden! For the last few years, we've really made an effort to put in a substantial vegetable garden in our backyard. The children love to help pick out the seeds, plant them, water the plants, and pick the vegetables (and eat them, too), so it's a fun, educational, and tasty, experience for them. We also like the fact that we're getting to eat our own organically grown veggies!
Registration is now open for Marin's popular Slide Ranch Summer Day Camp, with sessions taking place from June 15 through August 21, 2015 at their spectacular seaside location in Muir Beach. Camps at Slide Ranch give kids a unique opportunity to get hands-on experience on a working farm and also explore the natural world surrounding the ranch.
Slide Ranch offers 10 nature-based camps geared for all different age groups including Ranch Rangers (ages 5 to 13), Slide Explorers (ages 5 to 8), and Junior Farmers (ages 8 to 13). Slide Ranch also offers three Junior Camp Counselor weeks for teens ages 14–18, where they attend and help teach at the camp.
It's a New Year, so why not resolve to spend more time outdoors as a family? Get some exercise, explore Marin County's many parks and open space preserves, and learn about the natural wonders that can be found all around us. A fantastic and eye-opening way to get out and experience nature in Marin is to take part in one of the naturalist-led family outings offered by Marin County Parks.
The parks department's Nature for Kids outings take place at Marin's many open space areas, and feature a leisurely, kid-paced hike with plenty of opportunities to stop and explore along the way. The hikes are informal and unstructured, and perfect for kids of all ages, although they seem geared for kids ages 3 to 12.
Led by experienced and knowledgeable naturalists like David Herlocker, these hikes allow everyone in the family to get up-close-and-personal with insects, reptiles, spiders, birds, and other flora and fauna that call Marin home. The programs are really fascinating and will make you look at our open spaces in a completely different way.
Earth Day 2014 takes place on Tuesday, April 22. It’s a great time to celebrate and teach our children the importance of preserving our planet’s resources. There are plenty of ways to observe the occasion here in Marin and the Bay Area, and we've created a list of local events that either celebrate Earth Day or help families learn about nature and the planet.
Fun Events for Earth Day
Earth Day Celebration 2014
Bay Area Discovery Museum, Sausalito
Saturday, April 19, 9 am–5 pm
Join us on Earth Day to celebrate the natural beauty of our environment. Every day, the museum seeks to inspire the next generation of environmental stewards by encouraging children to immerse themselves in our unique place by the Bay. All activities included with admission unless noted otherwise. See schedule here.
Earth Day: Come Play for the Planet
San Francisco Zoo Saturday & Sunday, April 19 & 20, 11 am–3 pm
Head to the zoo for some fresh air and good ol' fashioned fun themed around conservation and caring for the environment. Activities include live entertainment with the Raytones, games, a scavenger hunt, wild recycled crafts with SCRAP, face painting, costumed animal characters, keep talks, a Family BikeAbout, and more. Learn more here.
For a short, family friendly hike in southern Marin with amazing views, head to Tiburon and the Old St. Hilary's Open Space Preserve. It's a great outdoor outing for all ages, and there's plenty to see along the way, including wildflowers, wildlife, and breathtaking views, making it another of Marin County's outdoor gems.
Old St. Hilary's Open Space Preserve surrounds the namesake church, which is now administered by the Belvedere-Tiburon Landmarks Society as a historical landmark. This rare Carpenter Gothic church was built in 1888 to serve Tiburon's Catholic railroad workers, and now serves as a venue for concerts, weddings, and special events. (Tiburon, despite its genteel image today, was at one time Marin's roughest, toughest industrial town, home to railyards, codfish canneries, and a US Navy coaling station.)