Playful Nature Explorers

In the kingdom of Playful Nature...

...snowflakes gather on mittened hands, tadpoles wiggle in dappled sunshine, carrot tops poke out of rich brown soil, and eyes sparkle with curiosity and wonder.

ICG’s Playful Nature Explorers is for children ages 2.5-6. It is research-based, child-centered, and brings a world of discovery, learning, and joy to your child’s day and season through nature and play immersion. Following the rhythm of the seasons, our play-based curriculum allows the natural curiosity of young children to lead our explorations, experiments, and creative expressions.

Meet our Playful Nature Educator, Mara NewRoots, Early Childhood Educator

Read more about a Winter Day at Playful Nature Explorers


Do the kids pack their own snack?


What is the child to educator ratio?

6:1 is the maximum ratio

What is the daily routine?

9:00 am arrival and play while we wait for friends
9:15 am Circle time
Bathroom Break
Exploration play/ Head to garden (Winter)
12:00 pm pick up

Can I register just for one month or do I need to commit to the season/year?

You can register month to month and choose the schedule that best fits your family, 2-day, 3-day, or 4-day.

What do children need to bring?

Children should pack a hearty, nutritious snack each day as well as a complete change of clothes. Weather appropriate outdoor gear and footwear is a must.

Can I visit and observe the program?

Yes! We’d love to have you and your child visit. Please email Mara ( to arrange a visit. You’re welcome to stay for the entire morning or choose to visit from 9:15-10 or 11-12.

How much time do you spend outdoors?

In the spring and fall, children are dropped off and picked up at Ithaca Children’s Garden. We’ll spend the entire morning outdoors. In the winter, we begin our days at our indoor classroom in the Just Be Cause Center, making the short walk down to the Waterfront Trail to the Garden mid-morning for at least an hour, often more, of outdoor play.

What is your program philosophy?

We believe that all children deserve a childhood full of wonder and joy; that children develop a relationship with and knowledge of the world by experiencing it with all their senses. Playful Nature Explorers is a nature and play-based program that empowers children to be active in their own learning process. We meet children where they are developmentally, facilitating connection to one another and the natural world in a caring way.

Who decides the curriculum?

Although we plan an outline of seasonal themes for each month, it is really the children that decide the curriculum. A teachable moment may turn into a week-long exploration, intense interest in a topic planned for one week may lead to a month’s worth of activities. And when it comes to play, we follow the children’s lead as they are the experts of their own play. It is our responsibility to support yet not interfere with that play.

Ready to register your child for a season of play and discovery?

Fill out the Playful Nature Explorers registration form today!

Notice about Scholarships & Member Discounts:

ICG's policy is to not turn anyone away for inability to pay. We have created an easy to use scholarship application form that will help us start the process of identifying the right scholarship level for your family. Out of respect for the dignity of each family's private financial information, we will not request personal financial details as part of the application process.

If you are interested in scholarships, please complete the scholarship application.