Kids Page

Children at Martin’s Branch

Diana Foster

Ivy Creek Natural Area is a magical place for children to learn, play and grow.  There are so many ways to experience the magic. One is to join a program, such as our Little Naturalists program for children ages 3-5. Trained guides explore topics such as food chains, hibernation, how trees grow and more with 3 to 5 year olds and their accompanying adults. The program starts indoors for 20-30 minutes where the children engage with the guides through reading nature centered books and doing a hands-on activity related to the learning in the book. This is followed with a short hike on one of the ICNA trails. Little Naturalists meet on the second Mondays, third Saturdays, and fourth Thursdays of the month. Gatherings are held from 10:00 to 11:30 am. We prefer that people preregister for these free events. The link to register for the next one is here. Siblings are also welcome to attend.

Little Naturalists follow the weather cancellation policies for Albemarle County Schools.  When the schools are closed or there is a late opening, the Little Naturalists will not meet on that day. 

Of course, a great way to experience Ivy Creek Natural Area is to simply come and take a walk. In joyfully observing what you find and safely interacting with nature, you can spark a curiosity and lifetime love in a child.  We have collected the following resources for parents, grandparents and caregivers who might be looking for ways to talk about nature with young people and/or simply need a little inspiration. We hope that you can find something useful.

For families that are new to the Ivy Creek Natural Area, here is an introduction to some of the places you might explore. Our Little Naturalist (LN) guides have also created a series of themed units to inspire you to get outside with your preschoolers. These activities follow the rhythm of a LN gathering with stories, book recommendations, fun facts, activities and even some coloring pages. These might give you things to talk about when you are out in your backyard, in a neighborhood park or out at Ivy Creek.

For exploring with older children:

Ivy Creek has been providing guided tours for school groups for almost 40 years.  These tours are integral to our mission and dear to our hearts.  Many schools have not returned to holding field trips yet, but in the meantime, there are some ways that you can still add another dimension to your family hike at Ivy Creek.

Try using one of these self-guided trail tours that you can download from our website and bring with you.  

There are also several GPS triggered audio tours specific to the Ivy Creek Natural Area.  The Water and Geology Walk for Families takes you down to Martin's Branch and introduces you to a rock that is a billion years old.  Or take a walk created by Dede Smith: Listening to the Landscape: Wildlife Habitat.  Download the free Izi travel app and walk them at Ivy Creek with earbuds.  Or "walk" them using your home computer.  You can also access other audio tours relevant to Ivy Creek, including the monthly Walking With Bess series.

A wonderful place to explore with kids is the Ivy Creek Pollinator Garden which is found near the Education Building and Barn.  Our volunteer gardeners have provided information for you about the garden and the pollinators that visit it which you can find on our Gardens page.  For ideas on how to engage children while visiting the Pollinator Garden, you can visit the Capturing Kids' Attention in the Pollinator Garden page.

You can also learn about Ivy Creek wildlife while watching these videos from ICNA volunteer photographer Bob Gore:  Two Baby Barred Owls Arrive at Ivy Creek  and Beech Blight Aphids

For learning about River View Farm:

Before Ivy Creek Natural Area was created, this land had been owned and farmed by the Carr/Greer family for over 100 years.  Hugh Carr was a formerly enslaved man who bought, established, nurtured and grew River View Farm where he and his wife raised their seven children.  The family was an integral part of the local history of the time and we have created ways to share some of that history with you, even while we cannot invite you into the Barn or Farmhouse at the current time.  

Our Education Committee created this way to introduce River View Farm to younger children.

Stop at the kiosk with older children to read about Hugh Carr and the Union Ridge community and/or try taking this audio tour, created by Dede Smith:   Listening to the Landscape: Walking through History.  You can also explore River View Farm's history virtually through a series of Storymapping projects, made possible for Ivy Creek by Erik Irtenkauf. 


We hope that you enjoy your time at Ivy Creek.  And remind you that we continue to ask for your respect for others while visiting.  Please be mindful of physical distance with other visitors. Please hike out any trash or food stuffs that you bring with you.  Stay mindful of the wildlife that make their homes at Ivy Creek and interact safely and respectfully.  

Feel free to contact us with questions, thoughts or suggestions.