Wilton Library’s Michael Robin reading books to kids at a Books and a Blanket program. Credit: contributed / Wilton Land Trust

On Friday June 30, the Wilton Land Trust (WLT) co-hosted the final spring installment of the Books and A Blanket series, in conjunction with Wilton Go Green and Wilton Library. The inclusive and innovative program brings families and little ones out into nature, on their blankets, and exposes them to environmental learning through fun, hands-on activities.

A true partnership, Books and A Blanket contains equal segments among the three organizations for a cohesive, diverse, engaging, and themed program that delivers songs, crafts, and nature. Held twice in the spring and fall, each event spans one hour and includes a reading, craft making, and nature walk free of charge for families to enjoy.

The program is an extension of Wilton Land Trust’s commitment to nurturing a bond between the everyone in the community and nature, logically reinforcing the belief that making that connection strong for children is good for the future.

The Land Trust has focused on finding community partners that support that effort.

“Together, we are sowing seeds of environmental stewardship and fostering a brighter tomorrow,” Wilton Land Trust Executive Director David McCarthy said.

“By means of in-house programmatic creation and collaboration with our community partners, we are thrilled to offer a wide variety of educational and enriching experiences, like Books and a Blanket, to help foster a deeper appreciation for the natural world around us,” he added.

McCarthy said this approach not only supports the Trust’s mission to conserve open space and build community, but it also helps to create a positive and inclusive environment where people of all ages and backgrounds can learn, grow, and connect with each other.

In 2021, the Wilton Land Trust carefully developed the Books and A Blanket program to bring little ones out into nature. In 2022, the WLT expanded the program by teaming up with its new community partners, Wilton Go Green and Wilton Library, to perfect the program and enhance participant experience.

Today, the pioneering kids program brings families together, gathered under a shade tree in an open meadow, breathing fresh air and experiencing nature about four to five times a year. Lasting one hour, the program was carefully developed to offer a full experience, and to be just short enough to get young ones back home in time for lunch and nap time.

At June’s Books and A Blanket, about 10-12 families gathered at the WLT’s Walter Preserve (688 Ridgefield Rd.) for an interactive program about birds. Seated on their own blankets, with plenty of snacks in hand, kids and families experienced singing, dancing, and a live book reading from Wilton Library. The library’s Michael Robin started by reading bird-related books like Mel Fell by Corey R. Tabor, and incorporating music and dancing into his story time. Participants were encouraged to dance, sing, and even fly from blanket to blanket, immersing themselves in the world of birds.

“We loved being able to reach and connect with families in this lovely outdoor venue,” Wilton Library’s Nuchada Julavits said of the program.

Then, Wilton Go Green facilitated an upcycled craft-making exercise, where materials headed to the landfill get a second chance at life as a themed art project. Wilton Go Green’s Denise Reznik and Tammy Thornton presented their bird feeder craft, focusing on the importance of developing a sense of care for nature and sustainability at an early age. Using toilet paper rolls, SunButter, and bird seeds, the children created a tasty treat to bring home and feed birds in their backyards!

“Books and A Blanket gives the WGG the opportunity to interact with families in a way we might not at other events, community events or our own events. Through our upcycled craft, we show families how to take everyday objects and give them a second life before we even recycle or throw them away. We hope that simple activity can inspire them to look at items differently and think about reuse even before recycling,” WGG President Thornton said.

Lastly, McCarthy took everyone on a short but sweet nature walk, leading kids around the preserve, encouraging tactile learning, and teaching the children about native species.

“It’s the best part of my job. Seeing the smiles on the kids’ faces as they discover the wonders of nature reaffirms the importance of our collective efforts” as an organization,” McCarthy said.

He hopes this program will also foster lifelong commitments to the environment.

“I sought a career in nature because I was exposed to programs like this as a kid. It brings me great joy to foster a generation of young minds that may, one day, champion the cause of conservation and preserve our natural world,” McCarthy added.

Land Trust officials stressed the importance of working together alongside other local organizations to promote environmental learning.

“We’re grateful for our community partners, Wilton Library and Wilton Go Green. Through our collective efforts, we are sowing the seeds of a sustainable and harmonious future,” McCarthy said.

This “cross-pollination effect” of the three organizations working harmoniously together catalyzes learning while simultaneously promoting family fun.

Books and A Blanket is just one of Wilton Land Trust’s 40-45 spring and fall programs bringing diverse recreational, educational, inclusive, and experiential opportunities for people of all ages. WLT’s programs allow visitors to engage with nature, recreate, socialize, and learn about the history and culture of the land in the local area.

The three organizations look forward to the continuation of their Books and A Blanket program in the fall, and invite residents to join.

Participants can register for upcoming events online by checking the WLT Events and Programs on the WLT website. This October, WLT is hosting a Halloween-themed Books and A Blanket where children come dressed up in costumes to listen to stories, make upcycled crafts, play freeze dance, and trick-or-treat through a Wilton Land Trust wildflower meadow.