Nature-Based Facilitated Playgroup

For toddlers ages 1.5-3 years old, accompanied by a parent/caregiver


The latest in research shows that spending time in nature is not only intuitively a good idea, but essential for healthy brain development. Play-and-Learn Explorers is a parent-child participatory playgroup for two-to-three year olds and their caregivers. Each week, the group meets in a variety of outdoor locations, taking advantage of open spaces and the natural world that surrounds us in this amazing city. Destinations include Glen Canyon Park, Golden Gate Park, the Presidio, Crissy Field, and more.

The group will be led by Evelyn Nichols, who has over 15 years experience guiding young children and their families as they learn, play, discover, and experience wonder together.

During the group, Evelyn will guide families through child-directed exploration of nature, using children's inherent curiosity to create excitement about learning. Each weekly session will also include circle time, yoga movement and stretches, puppet shows and weekly readings/discussions on important toddler topics. This is a great opportunity to offer your child some consistent peer socialization, facilitated by an experienced teacher, before or while your child begins preschool.

Please read our Frequently Asked Questions for more information about the course.

Upcoming 10-week Winter 2019 session: Wednesdays, January 9 - March 20 (skip 2/20, 3/27), 9:30-11:30am

REGISTER HERE (Jan-March group)

In addition to our group starting in January 2019, please check out our "interim" group between our session ending in mid-November and our January session. It will be comprised of four classes, with the option to sign up for three if you might have holiday plans the week of Dec 19. Please check out this option in addition to our regular 10-week January program.

REGISTER HERE Interim Nov-Dec group - Wednesdays, November 28-December 19, 9:30-11:30am (with option to skip 12/19)

What a great program! My boys had so much fun exploring the outdoors each week and it was such a nice change to be able to get to know other parents a bit more than ‘how old is your kid?’. It was great to have a casual discussion facilitated on a topic that everyone was likely experiencing at that time. The kids really bonded too which was nice to see at this age. We’re looking forward to doing another session.
— parent participant, 2016


What do you recommend my child wear on outings?

Please dress your child in clothing where he/she can freely explore and get dirty without worry. We all know that San Francisco weather can be unpredictable from hour to hour, and from neighborhood to neighborhood, so we ask parents to be prepared. Sturdy, close-toed shoes are highly advised, and layers are recommended. On rainy days, we highly recommend that your toddler wear a quality rain jacket, rain pants and rain boots. On sunny days, please pack a sun hat/sunblock for your child. You might also want to bring a change of socks and/or a full outfit change for the ride home-if we come across a puddle or some mud, odds are good that the children will explore it!

How strenuous are the hikes/nature walks? Should I plan on bringing a carrier or stroller?

Our weekly excursions are more about the journey rather than the destination. Play-and-Learn Explorers is a child-directed program, which means that we will follow the children’s lead during the hikes. We will stop to pick up pine cones, touch the bark on trees, study insects and listen for bird calls. Sometimes children will asked to be picked up or carried; however, we will encourage children to walk on their own as much as possible, to gain the full benefits of exploring at their own level. It is helpful for parents to talk to their children about this expectation prior to the outings. Please do not bring a stroller or a carrier/hiking backpack for your toddler.

What happens on rainy days?

Play-and-Learn Explorers groups will meet rain or shine. Rainy days bring a new level of sensory exploration to the outdoors! However, we typically will modify the weekly activity slightly on days where there is heavy rain and will meet at the Botanical Gardens in Golden Gate Park, where there is a library. We will have circle/story time in the library first and then go on a brief nature walk in the rain. We ask that children be dressed in weather-appropriate attire each week and encourage children to have rain coats, sturdy boots, and ideally rain pants as well on days when the forecast calls for rain. On sunnier days, we recommend sun hats, sunscreen, and layers.

In exceptional cases where inclement weather could pose a safety risk, a session would be rescheduled and parents would be notified by the instructor prior to the scheduled start time.

I have a toddler and an infant. Can I bring the infant along to our Explorers sessions?

Yes! Baby siblings are welcome to come along for Explorers sessions with older siblings. Please be advised that many locations are not very stroller accessible, so baby carriers (Ergo, Boba, etc.) for infant siblings are highly encouraged.

Note: If you have a child on the younger side, please use your best judgement as to whether or not your child will be able to participate in nature walks. They will need to be able to walk with the larger group. Carriers should only be used for infant siblings that are joining you and your older child. 

 Please email to be informed of other upcoming sessions.