I realized recently how fortunate we are to live close to an entrance to the Barton Creek Greenbelt. The Greenbelt is every bit as pretty as a state park–but without the entrance fee! Hiking and swimming are especially great there during the Spring when the water level is high. The other day, my two little girls and I decided to take advantage of the fact that the Creek is flowing especially well right now by taking a little expedition down to the water.
Parts of Barton Creek can be kind of crowded with swimmers and tubers, but we found many quiet, shallow areas just right for preschoolers to do their splashing and exploring.
If you decide to go on your own creek expedition, here are 10 simple ideas for adding to the adventure:
1. Bring a nature identification guide. The Golden Guide to Pond Life, for example, has everything you need to identify fish, bugs, and small water animals.
2. Make an aquascope. An aquascope is a simple instrument for helping you see more clearly deeper in the water. You can use any tall, waterproof container, but we used a protein powder container. Cut one end off with a knife so that you have two open ends. Use a large rubber band to secure a piece of cling wrap to one end. Push your aquascope into the water and peer in to see what you can see! (It’s especially fun if you can find an area with some little fish to peer at!)
3. Build an island out of sticks and rocks in the middle of the stream.
4. Play “pooh sticks” The version of the game from Winnie the Pooh uses a bridge, but you can do it by deciding together on a set place along the river. Go upstream about 30 feet and have everyone drop a twig or leaf, or anything easy distinguishable into the creek at the exact same time. Run to the determined spot to see whose item “wins” by reaching the spot first.
5. Bring a butterfly net and a bucket for catching bugs and fish.
6. Collect shells. You’re not going to find anything dramatic like you would find at an ocean beach, but there are lots of small clams and snail shells to be found.
7. Collect smooth river stones. See who can find the smoothest, roundest stone.
8. Skip rocks. Use flat rocks and find a slow area of the creek.
9. Practice balancing on one of the many fallen tree trunks along the sides of the river. It’s much more exciting to balance on something when there is danger of falling into the “ocean.”
10. Collect brush and rocks to make a dam. Pick a shallow, slow moving section of the creek, and see if you can stop the water flow enough to make a small pool.
The part of the Greenbelt with closest access to the Creek is located off of Loop 360. The trail can be a little rocky and steep at times; so wear good shoes for the walk down to the water. For more information go to Texas Outside.
Katey never runs out of fun ideas for at-home (or near-home) play. Check out her blog, Having Fun at Home, for countless creative crafts and kid projects – most of which you can make for free!