Nature Play

Please click on the link to my handbook for complete information on my standards, policies, procedures and rates.

A little more about Sarah's team...


I am Sarah Marshall,  a Forest and Nature School Practitioner, certified through Forest School Canada and the Child and Nature Alliance of Canada, and facilitator of play! I have been operating my private nature play based dayhome for over 16 years because I genuinely love the business of learning along side children – it is so joyful and rewarding to me. Every day is full of magical wonder! I look forward to each day with my team of adventurers, working with their families, the experiences we have and the challenges it brings.

I am invested in providing children in my care with what matters most in early childhood; to feel the warmth of the sunshine and breathe fresh air, a safe, relaxed, stress free environment where children are lovingly cared for, valued and feel like they belong, build heartening relationships, experience lot's happiness, lots of laughter, and PLAY!


Learning Through Play!

The children and I enjoy a daily rhythm in a warm and nurturing family atmosphere. The theme is learning through play! The children are given the opportunity to initiate their own play experiences, they have access to variety of enchanting toys and quality materials, and all the amazing opportunities for play and supported risk taking the beautiful outdoors has to offer!

Hands on, mucky and messy, kid initiated fun is the pinnacle of learning through play!

I love my role of co-learner, trusting children and giving them freedom to stretch themselves, seeing them as capable learners and involving them in their learning process.  The children's natural interests and inclinations guide the direction of our play. Through observation, documentation and reflection of my group's interests and developmental stages I introduce various provocations, loose parts, materials etc... to support their learning and development. 

Child to Caregiver Ratio

My dayhome is a legal, privately operated business, licensed with the town of Cochrane. The health and safety of all children in my care is of utmost importance to me.

I look after a maximum of 6 children at any given time. No more than 2 children under the age of 2, no more than 3 children under the age of 3.  I accept children into care ages 18 months +. My own two children are 17 and 15 yrs. old and therefore not included the number of children I care for.

My fall 2021 team:
  1. 1) 4 yr. old full time
  2. 2) 3 1/2 yr. old full time
  3. 3) 2 1/2 yr. old full time
  4. 4) 2 1/2 yr. old full time
  5. 5) 2 yr. old part time
  6. 6) Drop-in (not accepting drop-in care at this time)

I have a small team of 3-5 children.  This enables me to provide attentive, sensitive, responsive care to each individual child, in a relaxed and warm, family-like atmosphere. 

Healthy Attachments

As a parent and a childcare provider I recognize the importance of having a healthy attachment to each child in my care. This meaningful bond and child's sense of security supports development, learning and healthy growth. I practice a positive, non-punitive approach to guidance and discipline. I place emphasis on respect for self, others, property and the natural world. I encourage positive communication, cooperation, self regulation and problem solving. Autonomy is fostered. I care for each child with affection, attention, trust and respect.

Nutrition and Eating

Meals and snacks are pleasant and appealing, whether we are sitting on a picnic blanket under the canopy of the trees or all around the table together, bonding over our food. I love cooking and baking with the children using quality, healthy, fresh ingredients and whole foods. The children love being trusted to share the responsibility and are more to eager to expand their palate!  They enjoy a wide variety of fruits and vegetables and balanced healthy meals and snacks. The children are included in meal and snack planning, prep, serving, and clean up. They participate in food related activities like picking saskatoons, gooseberries and wild strawberries at the Ranche for snack, collecting rose hips in the fall for tea, picking crabapples from their favourite climbing tree in the yard to make cider, picking dandelions in our yard for jelly in the summer, picking veggies & fruit from our gardens, cracking and eating nuts, prepping and cooking bannock on a stick over an open fire, gathering kindling & flint & steel strikes to light a fire in our Ghillie kettle.

Professional Development

I completed the Forest and Nature School Practitioner course with the Child and Nature Alliance of Canada and Forest School Canada in May 2020. I am very excited to be on this journey of learning and delivering Forest and Nature School pedagogical theory and practical skills!


In my free time, I enjoy taking courses and workshops related to early learning and development and outdoor education. A few examples; Dave Verhulst of Forest Tracks in Canmore; Connecting to Nature Through Storytelling, Dr. Peter Gray - The power of play: How it promotes children's intellectual, social, moral, and emotional development.., Institute of Child Psychology Workshop: Tammy Schamuhn, R. Psych, R. Play Therapist - Childhood Anxiety: Understanding & Helping Children, Tinkering webinar with Dr. Beverlie Dietze and others offered through Get Outside & Play   I am also an avid reader of books on the topic of early childhood, and forest and nature school ethos.


Outdoor Adventures & Nature Play!

Passion is lifted from the earth itself by the muddy hands of the young; it travels along grass-stained sleeves to the heart.
– Richard Louv

When children come to Wild Wonders Nature Play, they step into the natural world leaving behind the rush, schedules and adult agendas. Here children experience a reprieve from the barriers that limit their capacity to fully immerse themselves in play and learn. As a facilitator of nature play I trust children, value what they are doing and support their learning. Children need uninterrupted periods to develop their play, time to become deeply involved, to follow their ideas through, and return to their explorations. Here, they enter a world that enables them to become fully engaged without the constraints of their space, time and freedom. A state of flow which provides an optimal and authentic learning experience.

We explore: Cochrane Ranche, Big Hill Creek, in the large fenced backyard playground, walks and biking to the parks and playgrounds along the red path and in the area including Riverfront Park. The children's days are enriched with activities like campfires, picnics, mud play, creek wading, shelter building, snowmen, snow forts, sledding,  puddle jumping, vegetable gardening, foraging, tree climbing, vegetable peeler whittling and much more! Unless it is dangerously cold outside (school closure, extreme windchill/frostbite warning) we will be playing outside! 

Children are innately curious and scientists by nature.  The outdoors provides a rich play environment for them to wonder, explore, build and manipulate!  Connecting to nature is definitely one of the highlights of the children's day. They crave the freedom to run around uninhibited, to explore and are delighted to engage in thrilling and challenging risky play. They go home excited to share stories of climbing trees, wading in the creek, spotting wildlife like herons, eagles, deer, moose, coyotes, foxes, snakes, squirrels and more, and have a true appreciation for their natural surroundings. 

The children develop a reverence for the land they regularly adventure on and explore. The connection establishes love for Cochrane Ranche, the wonders it holds and a desire to protect and care for it.


Visiting their beloved nature sites daily and given unhurried time, space and freedom, the children are deeply engaged in playful learning and it is a truly beautiful thing to observe!

I love to see the children so aesthetically aware, like pointing out the soft, silver fuzz on a new crocus or the curl of a dried out sepal on a rosehip. I am so fortunate to see the world from their perspective and things I might overlook. 


I notice ruddy cheeks, bright eyes and "I am strong and capable!" attitude as they master and practice emerging physical skills by doing things like climbing trees, leaping across boulders, balancing on a log to cross a creek, bike riding all the way to the Bow River and scrambling up steep banks. Children are learning they can do hard things and internalizing it!

It is always entertaining to watch the children's creativity and their imaginative play; a bent over tree trunk "tree trampoline" and collaborating to take turns bouncing on it, pretending the log across the dry creek bed is their horse, pounding Juniper berries with rocks to make fragrant "cookies" or crawling under the trees where only small people can squeeze to discuss plans for soup made from pine cones, mud and grass, playing deer hiding in the grass, howling wolf pack running through the Ranche etc.

A lot of the activity that unfolds during nature play, involves collaboration, trust and teamwork. Whether it be working together to lift a heavy branch, tie knots to make a rope swing, pull a struggling friend up a bank or build a fort,  children are socially interacting and learning to communicate effectively to overcome obstacles and play.

The younger toddlers love the full-body, sensory-rich experiences of the outdoors too! They take their time exploring the world around them, toddling around in the grass, dipping their toes in the creek, filling and dumping containers with pine cones and mud. Chubby little fingers love to crinkle crunchy leaves, squish moist moss and reach for juicy gooseberries .

A person once chanced upon our giggly play as the were out for a walk. They observed my team playing in the creek on a hot summer day at the Ranche and paused on the bridge to smile. The children were absolutely exuberant, jumping off a log into the shallow water, lining up mud pies to be baked in the sun and splashing each other.  They wisely told me, "these kids won’t remember the shows they watched or the video games they played this summer...this is what they'll remember". Some of the most memorable early learning happens in wholesome joyful experiences like these.

It's heartwarming for me to see the children I've looked after over the years, who have since grown and moved on from my care (some of whom are adults now!). After the hugs and chit chat, the conversation inevitably turns to "remember when we... built that fort!, went sledding! and saw a moose!, had a fire!, swam in the creek!". It fills me with happiness and joy to hear their most memorable experiences were playing outside.

I am very passionate about the importance of outdoor play in childcare and beyond. Over my 17 years experience, I have had the privilege of seeing first hand the many benefits of outdoor play and connecting with nature. It supports whole child development.



Indoor & Backyard Learning Environments

Our playroom is on the main floor of my home, with an open design and large windows facing both east and west bringing in the warmth of natural lighting. 

I strive to create a warm and calm environment that invokes wonder, investigation and curiosity, creativity and problem solving.  The set up of provocations and invitations to play are full of rich open-ended materials.  It is a responsive and intentional space that is always evolving and changed frequently. Children can make choices independently about what they will use and how they will use it. It holds a variety of quality toys, educational and open ended materials such as loose parts, manipulatives, very large library of books, puzzles and games, Zoomy handheld digital microscope, light table, overhead projector, wind tunnel, sensory table, nature treasures, creative and dramatic play materials, musical instruments, a plethora of construction & engineering toys like wooden arches & tunnels, large hollow blocks, wooden blocks, Grimms stackers, Sumblox, mirror blocks, Magformers, Magnatiles, ramps, Duplo, Lego and more.

  • Sunny play
    Sunny play
  • Kinetic sand in the sensory table, our suncatcher prisms projecting rainbows on the walls...and that sunshine!
    Kinetic sand in the sensory table, our suncatcher prisms projecting rainbows on the walls...and that sunshine!
  • Light table, mirror blocks, loose parts,W.Bentley Snowflakes books
    Light table, mirror blocks, loose parts,W.Bentley Snowflakes books
  • Kid made ramp set up, and sunart science hanging in the window
    Kid made ramp set up, and sunart science hanging in the window
  • Some winter backyard birds the children can identify
    Some winter backyard birds the children can identify
  • Christmas loose parts and items of interest
    Christmas loose parts and items of interest
  • Lego in the table and natural materials projected on the wall
    Lego in the table and natural materials projected on the wall
  • Calendar, Weehee 'joke of the day book & nature treasures
    Calendar, Weehee 'joke of the day book & nature treasures
Our spacious, fenced backyard is surrounded by mature trees, and bushes inviting the children to climb, build shelters and forage for raspberries, cherries & crab apples. We also have several vegetable gardens, a herb garden, strawberry patch, a playground, mud kitchen, playhouse, water wall, fairy garden, sandbox, bucket pulley, gutter ramps, picnic area and many seasonal toys and equipment.


Full time:  No availability
Part time: No availability
Drop-in: No availability

To inquire about an opening or be added to the Contact List for future openings, please send me an email sarahsdayhome@outlook.com. Include your start date, your child's DOB and your schedule.

Due to the volume of inquiries I only schedule tours/interviews for families I feel would be be the best fit for my current group (based on age, schedule etc. when I know of an opening).