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! My dayhome is BGC Day Homes licensed, approved and monitored.  I have been operating my nature, play-based dayhome in Cochrane for almost 18 years because I genuinely love the business of learning alongside children – it is so joyful and rewarding to me. Every day is full of curiosity and wonder! I look forward to each day with my team of adventurers, working with their families, and the experiences we have.

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 and a safe, relaxed, stress-free environment. A welcoming place where children are lovingly cared for, honored, valued and feel like they belong.  A place where heartening relationships flourish, and children experience lot's of happiness, laughter, and PLAY!


Learning Through Play!

Each day is cradled by 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, child-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 and materials to support their learning and development. 

At Wild Wonders, children spend much of every day outside exploring Cochrane Ranche and other natural spaces through all the seasons and all weather. As an educator I support children and hold space for child-centered learning through play, honouring what is happening in daily moments.  

I value our Wild Wonders family community, and the connections we have are fostered through family involvement and communication. I document and communicate the children's learning journey with parents daily.

Child to Caregiver Ratio

I accept children into care ages 18 months +. 

My 2022  team:
  1. 1) 5 yr. old full time
  2. 2) 4 yr. old full time
  3. 3) 4 yr. old full time
  4. 4) 4 yr. old full time
  5. 5) 3 1/2 yr. old part time
  6. 6) Drop-in (not accepting drop-in care at this time)

I have a small team of 4-5 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 mother and an educator, I recognize the importance of having an emotional connection to each child in my care. I believe every child needs to feel loved and connected to their caregivers. This meaningful bond and a child's sense of security supports development, learning and healthy growth. I practice a positive, non-punitive approach to guidance. I place emphasis on respect for self, others, and the natural world. I encourage positive communication, cooperation and teamwork, self-regulation and problem solving. Autonomy is fostered and children are given agency. Children are trusted to make decisions and choices that will influence and impact their experiences and their world. I care for each child with love and 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 are included in meal and snack planning, prep and clean up. They are viewed as competent and trusted to share the responsibility and are more than eager to expand their palate!  They enjoy a wide variety of fruits and vegetables and balanced healthy meals and snacks. 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 for oatmeal. 

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! I am also a level 1 Early Childhood Educator.


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, National Child Day Conference through ARCQE.   I am also an avid reader of books and research articles 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 an educator and 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 by exploring the limitless wonders of the natural world, natural phenomena, cycles, flora and fauna. The children do activities like campfires, tool use, art, 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 play outside every day. 

Children are innately curious and scientists by nature.  The outdoors provides an unmatched, rich play environment with limitless opportunities for them to wonder, explore, build and manipulate!  Connecting to nature is 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, observing wildlife, and have a true appreciation for their natural surroundings. 

The children develop a reverence for the land they regularly adventure on and explore. Their connection deepens and 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 see ruddy cheeks, bright eyes and hear "I am strong and capable!". There is an attitude of self-confidence and competence as they master and practice emerging physical skills; climbing trees, leaping across boulders, balancing on a log to cross a creek, navigating uneven terrain, bike riding all the way to the Bow River and scrambling up steep banks. Children are developing body awareness and 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! I hold space for them to explore the world around them unhurried, toddling around in the grass, dipping their toes in the creek, filling and dumping containers with pinecones 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 they 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, dropping leaves in the current to watch them float downstream, counting and 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 meaningful 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 firsthand 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 invitations to play and provocations 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, and more.

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).