Over Spring Break the kids and I took a day trip over to Cincinnati to visit the Marge and Charles Schott Nature Playscape. The Nature Playscape is a recent addition to the Cincinnati Nature Center. The goal in creating such a space within the Nature Center was to “create a regional model for healthy child development and demonstrate how to effectively use the outdoors to strengthen a child’s mind, body and spirit.”
They’ve not only succeeded in meeting that goal, they’ve gone and made me jealous that we don’t have such a space in Indianapolis. The kids loved it, despite the fact that shortly after we arrived we were met with a torrential downpour and falling temperatures. They played until they couldn’t feel their fingers or toes (we were very ill-prepared clothing wise for wet and cold – I promise it was gorgeous and sunny right up until we arrived), and had they been just a little warmer I know the rain and muddy puddles would’ve only enhanced the entire experience.
You might look at the space and wonder how today’s children could possibly be entertained here. There are no slides, no monkey bars, no swings. Instead you’ll find fallen logs, rocks, large sticks, water, dirt and gravel. The kind of unstructured play kids engage in here is critical for the development of creativity, critical thinking and motor skills. More importantly? It’s just plain fun. Even my kids, who are used to leniency on the playground, were both surprised and ecstatic to learn that they could move rocks, carry sticks, stomp in the water and get dirty.
Beyond the Nature Playscape, the Cincinnati Nature Center is an additional treasure. Stop by the Visitors’ Center to learn more about the habitat and animals that make their home there. Grab maps of the various trails, observe birds, visit with the naturalist, and allow time for kids to play inside.
We left cold, wet, dirty and happy. The kids can’t wait to go back, and while we’ll definitely visit again, I have visions of making something like this a reality in Indianapolis.
The Cincinnati Nature Center, along with the Marge and Charles Schott Nature Playscape, is located at 4949 Tealtown Road in Milford, Ohio. The grounds, as well as the Visitors’ Center, are open 7 days a week; hours vary seasonally. Visit their website for more information and to plan your visit.