The Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority

Riverine Flood Status
Lake Simcoe Shoreline Status
Low Water Status

Nature Backpacks

Explore Outdoors with Nature Backpacks

Nature can be found in your backyard, local park, conservation area or your local forest. It could be a worm crawling across a sidewalk, a butterfly resting on a flower, leaves blowing in the wind or a hawk soaring in the sky. 

Take time to be fascinated by the simple and magical moments nature provides.​
In the heart of the forest, two young children wearing nature backpacks hold magnifiers in their hands. One child holds a map as they both point excitedly into the forest.

Benefits of Nature

All children benefit from unstructured play in a natural environment, yet more and more children and youth are spending their time indoors. This lack of outdoor play can lead to a wide range of issues for children including anxiety, depression, obesity and problems focusing.

How does nature help?

Children and youth who spend time in nature improve academically, have better attention spans, are more physically active and are better able to cope with everyday life. Nature can also help develop observation and problem solving skills as well as promote emotional and intellectual development. Children who are allowed to play freely in natural environments are less aggressive and more cooperative. They get along better with friends and are overall happier than children who spend their time indoors.

How can we encourage our children to spend more time in nature, exploring and learning?

Introducing Nature Backpacks

Six themed nature backpacks were developed and loaned out from two local libraries in Newmarket ​and Aurora as part of a pilot project. The themes of the backpacks include:

  • Things with Wings – Provides activities that focus on learning about butterflies, moths, dragonflies and backyard birds while searching with your compass and binoculars.
  • Creepy Crawly Critters – Focuses on spiders, slugs, bugs and centipedes.
  • Who’s Been Here? – Learn how to identify animal tracks and signs of animals  
  • Splish, Splash, Splosh – Discover aquatic habitats and learn all about reptiles and amphibians.
  • Buds, Blossoms and Leaves – Learn about wildflowers, and take part in a nature scavenger hunt.
  • Explore Outdoors – Play nature bingo, find natural treasures, and learn how to use a compass as you explore the outdoors.

Since the pilot launched in 2017, the program has expanded to include a winter-themed nature backpack called Winter Outdoor Fun. More importantly, the program has expanded to more libraries, helping children connect with nature all across York Region.

Nature Backpacks are now available at the following public libraries:

It is hoped that these backpacks will continue to expand into other York Region libraries, school libraries and Parks & Recreation programs.

Want to create your own backpack?

Is your organization looking to create a set of these themed backpacks? Please contact York Region Public Health at for all the information you need to get started.

You can always start smaller too! Individuals and families can click here for simple instructions on building your own nature backpack at home. In the meantime, why not head outside with your kids and try this fun challenge, Amazing Things to Do Before You’re 12!

backpack iconCreate your own nature backpack!

Want to build your own nature backpack? Here are some ideas to get you started!

Is your organization looking to create a set of these themed backpacks?  Please email for all the information you need to get started. ​

Are your kids up for a challenge? Head outside and complete this list of Amazing Things to Do Before You’re 12​!

Permits  Acknowledgements

The Nature Backpack initiative was a pilot project led by York Region Public Health, and supported by the Healthy Kids Community Challenge Aurora, Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority, Toronto and Region Conservation AuthorityWindfall Ecology CentreTown of Aurora Public Library, and Town of Newmarket Public Library.

Nature Backpacks in the news: 

Backpack program helps York Region children get back to nature

Scroll to Top