Outdoor Adventures Dads and Preschoolers Alike are Sure to Love

Outdoor Adventures Dads and Preschoolers Alike are Sure to Love

Summer is almost here! And there’s no better time for dads and kids to make memories while spending time outside. The outdoors is the perfect backdrop for bonding with your youngster while communing with nature—not to mention the fact that plenty of outdoor adventures are low-cost or even free!

Ambur Gossen, a horticultural interpreter at the Springfield Botanical Gardens at Nathanael Greene/Close Memorial Park, says spending time outside can be a formative experience for children.

She encouraged dads and kids to visit the botanical gardens, which boasts 114 acres of parks, all available to the public. With 50 gardens, three miles of walking trails on the Ozarks Greenway Trail, multiple playgrounds and monthly activities throughout the park, there’s always something new for kids and dads to do together.

Gossen said the park is a perfect place for any activity level. From high-energy monkey bars to laid-back picnics, there’s plenty of memorable ways to engage with your children.

“It’s a great opportunity to plug into nature,” she said.

Hearing honking geese on the lake and spotting turtles basking on a log are perfect opportunities to fall in love with nature, discover connections with the food web and learn about the world around you. For Gossen, it’s rewarding to see children and parents alike gain new perspectives, adding she sees “magic and excitement” when dads and kids work together to stretch their boundaries as they embark on a new adventure together.

“(Nathanael Greene/Close Memorial Park) is also great spot to bring your bike because you can get through much of the southwest side of town easily,” Gossen said. “The trails are relatively flat, so it’s an easy way to see different parts of the city via the Greenway Trails system.”

Gossen’s advice for dads of preschoolers? Be flexible and be present. It doesn’t take much effort to be fully engaged, and the impact can be transformative, she said.

“The world looks different to a preschooler compared to older kids,” Gossen said. “Get down on their level and see the world from their point of view.”


More Offerings at the Springfield Botanical Gardens

  • Gossen especially recommended that friends of Good Dads attend the free monthly “Backpack Buddy Adventures,” a one-hour close-up look at wild things in the gardens one Saturday morning a month. The next adventure is at 11 a.m. on June 22 at the Botanical Center.
  • Garden Story Time is another free event at the park. From 10 to 10:30 on the third Thursdays and Saturdays, preschoolers and their parents are invited to a garden-themed story followed by a craft or activity at the Botanical Center.
  • Coloring sheets and scavenger hunt activities are available in the Botanical Center lobby.
  • The best way to keep up with Nathanael Greene/Close Memorial Park and all the other parks in the area is to sign up online for the This Month in Parks newsletter, Gossen said.
  • Missouri’s only native butterfly house is in Springfield—and is free to visit! For critter-loving preschoolers, the Roston Native Butterfly House house is a must-see destination. Knowledgeable volunteer docents are there to answer questions about butterfly and moth species. It’s also the perfect place to get an up-close look at caterpillar chrysalises. And if you’re lucky, a butterfly might just land on you! Find out more, and see nearby gardens, at the Springfield-Greene County Park Board website. Donations encouraged.



Jump into Even More Summer Outdoor Adventures Throughout the Ozarks

100 Hours Outdoors program – James River Basin Partnership: Children throughout SWMO are encouraged to spend 100 (or more) hours outside. By taking the pledge and logging their hours, youngsters can enter to win a cool prize! Plus, the James River Basin Partnership has a huge calendar of free and low-cost kid-friendly events—including birdwatching, garden story times, nature journaling and painting pollinator habitats—all of which could count toward your 100-hour goal. Check out details at jamesriverbasin.com.

Check out an Adventure Backpack from the Library: Greene County, MO library card holders can check out one of six adventure backpacks for a variety of interests—including insects, geology, botany and more. Dads and kids can check out backpacks for up to three weeks. Find the full list of Adventure Backpacks at thelibrary.org.

Join the world’s biggest treasure hunt by going Geocaching: There’s nothing quite as exciting as feeling your phone buzz as the Geocaching app indicates you’re within 20 feet of a hidden treasure! On the Geocaching app, hiders indicate the size of their cache, rank the difficulty of the hiding place, describe the nearby terrain, and sometimes sprinkle in one or two more hints as seekers look high and low to uncover the cache. This hobby is a great way to bond with your kids while teaching about patience and collaboration. And it often requires nothing more than a GPS and a pen. (Hint: There are a couple easy to find Geocaches throughout Nathanael Greene/Close Memorial Park!)

Lake Springfield offers picnic spots, playgrounds and walking tails: Sprawling nearly 160 acres in south Springfield, Lake Springfield Park is perhaps best known as a prime location to spot bald eagles in the wintertime. It’s a marvelous summertime destination, too. Lakeside paved trails and rugged wood chip trails up in the bluffs means you and your kids have the best of both worlds and can pick a trail based on your energy level. Just don’t get hit by a stray Frisbee from one of the area’s avid disc golf groups! (P.S. There are some great Geocaches around Lake Springfield, too!)

Goats and pigs and cows, oh my! Calling all animal lovers! Rutledge-Wilson Farm Park makes for an unforgettable park experience for children who love to make furry and feathered friends. Designed as an educational, authentic farm experience, visitors can discover who lives in and around the barn, bring a picnic lunch, view fields of crops or stroll down the paved Greenway trail. Many of the offerings at Routledge-Wilson are free, but the next big event, Kids’ Fishing Fun Day on June 1, requires a $5.50 pole rental fee. Register on the Park Board website.

Hike, learn and explore at the Springfield Conservation Nature Center: With primarily boardwalk and gravel trails, the Nature Center’s three-mile hiking trails spanning 80 acres of Ozarks forest are a little more advanced and are best most suited for children who don’t need strollers. You’ll find yourself tucked away from the hustle-bustle of the city, so these trails offer a unique, serene opportunity to spot animals and plants in their natural habitats. A true highlight of the Nature Center is the self-guided exhibit area: Kids and dads alike will love experiencing the sights and sounds of nature—plus, right outside they can experience the real deal! (The park is open all week during summer hours, but the building is closed Sundays and Mondays). Don’t miss their National Trails Day Celebration and Scavenger Hunt on June 1.



Where are your favorite Ozark adventures? We want to hear from you! Send your dad and kid summer excursions to [email protected] for a chance to be featured in a future blogpost and on Good Dads’ social media.

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