With school back in session and older children not at home to help entertain toddler siblings, many parents took advantage of Metro Parks' "ISpy" program last week at Homestead Park in Hilliard.

The overflow crowd of preschool-aged children listened intently Aug. 23 but soon began showing signs of wanting to put what they'd just heard into practice.

Turned loose on a sunny, breezy and low-humidity morning, the children were trailed by parents and caregivers who helped them succeed on their mission.

Half the group hid colored pipe cleaners on each side of a shelter house at the park and the other half searched for what was hidden.

The lesson was how animals use camouflage in nature, said Sarah Hunter, a Metro Parks naturalist who led the program.

The children were instructed to hide the pipe cleaner in a place that resembled its color in an attempt to disguise it, just as some animals can use natural camouflage to hide.

The program concluded with a search in the park to find such natural items as blossoms, sticks and pine cones to make a craft.

"We needed something to do," said Amy Klein of Dublin, who was with her son, Rocco, 4.

Her other children were back at school, she said.