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Natural Play

Thinking about my childhood and how I used to spend my summers now makes me laugh – nervously, that is. My parents would go to work, and my sister and I would go to play. “Be home in time for supper,” my mom would say. “Don’t forget to feed the dog,” my dad would remind us. And they’d go to work! I typically didn’t have contact with my parents for 8 hours a day. And to the hills, trees, streams, mountains, and yonder my friends, sister, and I went!

Climbing trees, making homemade fishing poles, and finding natural lakes were all on our lists of daily tasks. I remember one tree we found had low branches, and we built a tree fort in a matter of days. None of us slept at home for a few nights that week. I could list more of my favorite memories growing up, but I’ll save that for a later date. Point is, I was, and still am, fascinated at how we never got bored outside. I can only watch a movie so many times or only eat at the same restaurant so many times, but after 15 years, I still have just as much fun, if not more, spending time outdoors than when I was growing up. There’s just something about Mother Nature that keeps me coming back.

Perhaps your kids’ favorite outdoor activities are like mine. Perhaps they aren’t. No matter how your kids spend their free time outdoors, their creativity and imaginations are endless at the following list of Texas Natural Play Areas:

Mother Neff State Park Natural Playscape in Waco is home to 3.6 miles of hiking trails for beginners and those at a more advanced level, a multi-purpose camping loop for both RVs and tents, and many more opportunities to learn about the history and wildlife of the area. It recently added a whimsical play center for the kids, featuring a man-made armadillo!

The Hana and Arthur Ginzbarg Nature Discovery Center in Houston is a 4-acre park in Houston where children and families can come to learn about nature through hands-on discovery. The Discovery Room at the Natural History Museum of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington served as the initial inspiration for what has evolved into the Nature Discovery Center. Today, children can enjoy an outdoor play area, a small petting zoo, and an indoor education station which introduces kids to local flora and fauna.

The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin is the perfect place to bring the kids. The little ones can enjoy the Little House – a charming one-room structure on the southwest corner of our Central Courtyard. Designed as a special place just for children, its kid-sized features begin with the door. Children and families are welcome to come on in and help themselves to reading materials, puzzles, art supplies and nature-themed activities. Little chairs and tables — some painted with flowers, butterflies and ladybugs — welcome lingering and learning. Wee ones can explore nature displays, browse the “Book Nook” or try their hands at drawing. The Little House is the place where children can learn about shapes, smells, textures, and colors of nature through play and exploration.

The San Antonio Botanical Gardens is home to one of the most compelling natural components of San Antonio – the Family Adventure Garden. This garden is a 2.5 acre nature play and learning place for families. Explore the regions of South Texas, from an urban backyard to the Texas Hill Country and South Texas Plains. Discover ephemeral creeks, thundering ridges, beckoning hills, and tranquil pools. Let your imagination soar in fairy huts, forests, tunnels, and streams. The Family Adventure Garden is a place to return to again and again. Different “galleries,” each with its own unique nature and play components, make up the Family Adventure Garden. Gallery themes create teachable moments that help children relate plants, water, and wildlife to their own lives.

The Rory Meyers Children's Adventure Garden at the Dallas Arboretum was designed to connect children with nature. Education is a central focus of our mission, which is why we are delighted to be able to teach life and Earth science to children, their families, and their teachers. With over 150 individual, kid-friendly activities, the children’s garden features the Texas Skywalk, The Moody Oasis, A Walk in the Clouds, and more! Enjoy 8 acres of fun overlooking the beautiful White Rock Lake.

The Texas State Aquarium in Corpus Christi is ranked #16 in the US for best aquariums, according to US City Traveler. Part of what puts this aquarium at the forefront of American aquariums is its education and outreach efforts. The Texas State Aquarium offers activities and hands-on experiences for children of all ages (kindergarten through high school) at which they can learn about the mysterious wildlife living just beneath the surface of the Corpus Christi Bay. Discounts are available for all students, so schedule a visit, and come out today!