Favorite Natural Play Spaces or Family Friendly Hikes in NE Ohio
Hello! Welcome to a new blog series on our Favorite Natural Play Spaces or Family Friendly Hikes in Northeast Ohio, provided by Good Nature Therapy Services!
Good Nature Therapy Services is a nature based occupational therapy practice based out of Solon, Ohio and serving the Northeast Ohio area. This blog series will highlight some of what each location has to offer to child development, as seen through a pediatric occupational therapist’s eyes.
For this edition of our blog series, Favorite Natural Play Spaces or Family Friendly Hikes in Northeast Ohio, we are highlighting Holbrook Hollows in Bainbridge Township, Ohio!
Holbrook Hollows- Geauga Park District
7250 Country Ln, Chagrin Falls, Ohio 44023
Holbrook Hollows offers a family friendly hiking area AND a natural play space! It is a part of the Geauga Park District and is located in Bainbridge Township (even though its mailing address is listed as Chagrin Falls). According to Geauga Park District’s website, it is 131 acres with four trails totaling 2.8 miles and access to a bridle trail. Holbrook Hollows also offers a nature based playground that uses the natural landscape.
While there are too many benefits to discuss in a blog post, this entry is going to skim the surface of some of the basic developmental skills children can work on while enjoying Holbrook Hollows.
Read on for more information about all of the fun things Holbrook Hollows has to offer!
We receive sensory input in many different ways and varied experiences are important for developing these sensory systems (such as sight, smell, touch, taste, hearing).
Children are also developing their vestibular and proprioceptive systems. The vestibular system receives sensory input from moving your head or body through space and helps with balance and body position, and the proprioceptive system receives sensory input from push, pull or resistance and helps us understand what our body is doing and where our body is in space.
Holbook Hollows has many opportunities for sensory input!
Here are just a few:
Tall and short grass
Tall and short grass offers different tactile or touch experiences as well as different levels of resistance, which strengthens muscles and contributes to proprioceptive input when walking through it.
The slide can be accessed by the climbing rope, stone steps or a dirt path and provides vestibular input, or moving your head through space, when sliding down.
The creek offers tactile or touch input from the water touching skin and different textures and sizes of rocks as well as visual or sight input from flowing water and auditory or hearing from the sound of water over the rocks.
Motor Strength and Coordination
Motor strength and coordination involves the development of and strengthening of all muscles in the body. For children, motor strength and coordination develops through a variety of movement opportunities. Some of our favorite include:
The climbing rope offers the opportunity to work on hand and arm strength with grasp and pulling themselves up the stairs. It can be made easier or more difficult by crawling up the wooden ties for the easiest task, using both ropes or using one rope for the most difficulty.
The climbing structure offers opportunities for muscle strengthening and coordination and balance with a climbing net, balance discs and tightrope.
The balancing logs help children develop their sense of balance and stability and there are several options- one that is flush with the ground, one medium height and one taller one so they can work on progressively harder skills.
The crawling tunnel provides a nice space to hide or sit and also creates a space to work on crawling, which can benefit kids of all ages. Crawling works on using opposite sides of the body, strengthening core muscles and the shoulder, wrist, hand and arm muscles, which are important for school skills such as writing.
1 mile loop with steps and hill
Starting behind the rentable building, there are options to follow the Old Ironsides trail, which takes you down the stairs or the bridle trail which starts at the parking lot to the right of the small retention pond and passes over some stones and avoids the stairs. Both take you to the creek and small bridge of the Old Ironsides Trail. After crossing the bridge, turning right up the hill to Timber Ridge Trail takes you on a child friendly loop, which circles back to the creek and has a small hill to climb up and run down on the trail. This trail offers easy but varied footing and a small hill up and down, which helps with balance, strength and coordination.
What is visual processing?
Visual processing is the strength and coordination of the muscles in your eyes as well as the brain making sense of the information the eyes are sending.
In between the stairs and slide are colorful poles with different animals painted on them. They can be used for fun games that help with visual skills such as: calling out an animal name and racing to that pole, naming an animal “skill” (such as flying) and finding an animal that the skill matches, touching the colors in rainbow order and many others!
Scanning for wildlife
As the hike winds through the woods, there are many opportunities to scan the forest for wild animals! Scanning works on developing the muscles in the eyes that are needed for reading (among other things!).
Well labeled trails
At the trailhead is a map and throughout the trails are well labeled signs. Reading and following the map and the signs works on a number of different visual skills such as visual memory (the ability to recall what the eye has seen) and visual discrimination (the ability to detect similarities or differences in what the eye sees) for matching the trail symbols.
Nature Connection and Mindfulness
What is nature connection and mindfulness?
Nature connection is the relationship between humans and nature and the feeling of awareness and closeness to nature and the natural world. Mindfulness is the ability to be fully present and aware.
Parts of the hike are immersed in the woods, which gives the hiker the feeling of being “away”. The feeling of being “away” is part of the Attention Restoration Theory (you can read more about it here). The feeling of being “away” refers to being separate from thoughts or concerns and as well as physically away from man made spaces. On the hike, children are fully immersed in the forest (with easy access back to the parking lot!) which helps them feel disconnected from the some of the busy-ness of daily life and focusing on nature or practicing mindfulness.
There are plenty of natural materials available- the creek, wooden walk ways, dirt paths, trees, rocks, etc. of the hike as well as the natural materials of the play space (the slide is plastic but almost all other materials are natural materials).
Some Things To Know Before You Go:
Mile loop- Old Ironsides to Timber Ridge Trail- this trail is family friendly and loops back to its starting point. It starts behind the building, goes down stairs, over a bridge, up a hill, down a hill and back.
Stairs, with option to go around (rocks)- There are stairs on the hike, but there is an option to go around that can be accessed from the parking lot- this section goes down the hill from the parking lot and has gravel on the trail
No running water- toilets are available but do not have running water
Ravines- it is important to stay on the trail due to the presence of ravines- parts of the trail and play space is ‘hillside’ and has some drop offs if hikers significantly leave the trail.
We hope you enjoy Holbrook Hollows! If you are able to visit, please comment below about some of your favorite aspects or experiences at this beautiful park!
Thank you for reading- if you have any questions about any of the developmental areas above please schedule a free 15 minute discovery call here!
Holbrook Hollows: https://www.geaugaparkdistrict.org/park/holbrook-hollows/
Attention Restoration Theory: Ackerman, C. E. (2022, November 18). What is Kaplan's Attention Restoration Theory (ART)? PositivePsychology.com. Retrieved January 30, 2023, from https://positivepsychology.com/attention-restoration-theory/#:~:text=In%20a%20nutshell%2C%20Attention%20Restoration,%2C%20%26%20Garside%2C%202016).