Oak Canyon Nature Center for years has attracted university biology majors and elementary school children on field trips, as well as individuals of all ages who just want to hike its six miles of trails under canopies of oak, sycamore and walnut trees.
But the most popular program at the 58-acre wilderness preserve in Anaheim Hills is the one for its youngest visitors.
"Nature Hikes for Tykes," offered weekday mornings year-round, offers youngsters 2 to 4 years old a hands-on encounter with nature. They watch woodpeckers and hawks in the wild, taste plants used as food by Native Americans and early settlers, learn the habits of coyotes and even touch snakes.
"We try to interpret as much of the natural environment as we can for them," said Lesley Brunner, an Oak Canyon naturalist and student in environmental science at Chapman University.
Very young children "don't really communicate back and forth with us too much," Brunner said. So she takes a sensory approach, and "they really respond."
The center's staff tries to educate visitors to parts of the natural world that might not be familiar.
Preschoolers and their parents are eager to caress a rabbit or cuddle a duckling, Brunner said, but that enthusiasm might not extend to creatures such as reptiles.
"A lot of the children are afraid of snakes, and their parents are afraid of snakes," Brunner said. "It's really good to get them get over that phobia," she said, because reptiles are an important element of the ecosystem.
As part of its outreach to youngsters, the park this weekend is presenting its 10th annual Children's Discovery Faire. The event Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. will feature exhibits, arts and crafts, as well as music, dance and theater performances.
The park is at 6700 E. Walnut Canyon Road, south of Anaheim Hills Golf Course.
For information about the fair or about naturalist-led programs, call (714) 998-8380.
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Back to Nature
The Oak Canyon Nature Center will present its 10th annual Children's Discovery Faire this weekend.
When: Sunday 11 a.m.-4 p.m.
Highlights: Interactive nature exhibits, arts and crafts, petting zoo, plus music, dance and theater performances.
Sponsor: Anaheim Parks, Recreation and Community Services Department.
Cost: Admission and parking are free; food and drinks available for purchase.
Information: (714) 998- 8380