Keep It Cool In Nature!

Hooray! It’s time to celebrate, summer is officially here! The weather is heating up and we can feel the warm sun shining down on our skin. Summertime gives us the opportunity to invite nature into our daily lives. Whether it’s in a backyard, park, beach, forest preserve, or patio spending time in and with nature helps us learn, explore and play!

Try out some of our favorite ways to enjoy nature this season:

Nature Boardwalk.jpg

Take a Walk

Whether you have 5 minutes or 30 minutes, curiosity and discovery can make walks magical! Can you be gentle enough to hold a rollie pollie? Can you listen for wildlife in the trees? Can your fingers feel the texture of a flower petal? Can you see the stars (or satellites) in the night sky? Walks can be a perfect way to wind down the day and enjoy a gentle breeze.

Mud Day 6.29 (47).JPG

Make it Muddy

Do you remember squishing mud between your toes? What about making mud pies? Mud is an often forgotten tool of play and imagination. Let’s bring it back this summer, all you need is dirt and water! Add some tools like bowls, pans and spoons to really stir things up! Whether you’re making your own mud or enjoying it after the rain, mud play is a great way to get messy, stay cool and have fun!

Bosley (6).jpg

Fort Building

Sometimes we just need a safe, cool space to be in outside and fort building allows us to create that space almost anywhere! You might need some rope, clothespins, or even sticks to help drape and hang sheets out to create a cool, shady space. That space can be a castle, a cave, a spaceship, anything! Whatever kind of space you build can provide relief on the sunny days ahead.

Paint Popsicle.jpeg

Paint Popsicles

If watching your drawing disappear is too disappointing for your little one, try using some paint popsicles instead! Fill up some paper cups or an ice cube tray with paint, add a craft stick and pop them in the freezer. Once they’re ready to use take them outside with your choice of canvas and paint as the ice melts in the sun!

Moon Watch

Do your little ones notice how the moon changes throughout the month? Take some time each night to draw the moon on a calendar. If you’re doing a late car ride encourage observing how the moon seems to follow along your route.

Rollie Pollie.jpg

Bug Hunt

Little hands can find little creatures crawling all around. Start with sidewalks and flowering plants then move on to turning over rocks or digging up some soil. If bugs make you a bit squeamish watch them from a comfortable distance and imagine what kind of tasks they might be completing!

Water Paint.JPG

Water Drawing

What better way to stay cool than with water! All you need is a container with water and something to draw with. We like to use paintbrushes, sponges and our hands! You can draw on the sidewalk, on trees, or even on yourself, your canvas is unlimited when you’re outside. Watch the drawings disappear as the sun heats it up enough to cause evaporation! There are many ways you can alternate this activity to fit your little ones wishes. Use ice cubes to draw, use a spray bottle, add scents, be creative!


Bring Nature Indoors

Some days are just too hot to go outside so we must seek shelter inside away from the heat. We believe nature play can be brought indoors with us to continue the fun! If you see one of these days in the near future, plan ahead by collecting some loose parts together from outdoors; leaves, rocks, petals, and pine-cones are some of our favorites. With some bowls, baskets or even egg cartons your little ones can play, sort and discover!

What’s your favorite summer nature activity? Let us know in the comments below!

If you’re interested in more ways to soak up that vitamin D check out Vitamin N by Richard Louv for 500 more ways to explore and play in nature.

Written by Brenda Rivera

Chicago Summer Fun

With summer at our fingertips it’s time to think about new and fun opportunities to go outside and explore the city! Chicago summers are packed with outdoor opportunities of all types, here are a few tips and a couple of activities you can look forward to this season!

Here are some tips to enjoy summer activities:

Mud Day 6.29.18.JPG

-Check for family friendly hours- most events designate specific hours or areas for family fun performers and activities! When in doubt, go early and leave before the sun sets.

-Water and snacks- summer in Chicago can be HOT! Don’t forget to take a refillable water bottle and some refreshing fruit!

-Get ready for mess-not only does summer bring back opportunities to explore gardens and make mud pies, it also signals the return of ice cream and popsicles! Pack a wash cloth or wipes for sticky hands and faces or an extra set of clothes for those especially messy days.

-Take a blanket/towel- some festivals (like those in Chicago Parks) will have areas for families to make themselves at home. Although feeling the grass between your toes can be fun, a blanket will provide some comfort and will act as your family’s base camp.

-Avoid F.O.M.O- the fear of missing out can be very persuasive but we don’t recommend trying to fill your days to the brim. The feel good ease and sensations of summer are those that we remember - not how many events we get to check off! Make sure you leave some downtime on your schedule for the whole family. 

Festivals and Markets

Summer in Chicago is booming with festivals and markets at all corners of the city. Getting the family out to enjoy some food and music can make unforgettable memories! Although sometimes daunting due to crowds and loud music, festivals and markets can be a fun space for families to try delicious food and jam out to some groovy tunes!

Square Roots Festival.jpg

Kid Fest

  • West Fest in West Town July 6-7

Family Fun

  • Square Roots in Lincoln Square July 13-14

Kid’s Corner

  • Pilsen Fest in Pilsen August 17-18


Green City Market

  • Lincoln Park 7am-1pm Wednesdays and Saturdays

Logan Square Farmers Market

  • Logan Square 10am-3pm Sundays

Maxwell Street Market

  • South Loop 9am-3pm Sundays

Forests, Parks, and Beaches

If the festival scene is not your thing, never fear! A visit to a nearby forest, park, or beach may be the perfect option for your family.


The 606: A 2.7 mile long multi-use recreational trail that spans four neighborhoods! Great for a morning bike or scooter ride, if the trail gets too crowded consider one of the many parks at the entry points.

Montrose Beach: The beach is always a great idea and, lucky for us, Chicago has many! Montrose Beach - in addition to the sand and lake - has a bird sanctuary and fenced-off dog area!

Garfield Conservatory: Whether you are dropping in to one of their free programs or want to do some self-exploration, the conservatory is a fantastic place for the whole family!

Welles Park: Not only does Welles Park have various sports fields, a playground, indoor pool, and a performance gazebo, it also features a nature play space!

Forest Preserves of Cook County: Taking a quick trip to the forest preserves is a great option for those trying to take a break from the bustling city. Check out their various nature play spaces or take a fun walk through the woods and explore!

Wild Saplings Play Forest: Come to our nature play space tucked away in a woodsy corner of Pritzker Family Children’s Zoo. Climb a log tower, run through a tunnel of sculpted vines, jump on tree-stumps or make a mud pie! Don’t forget to keep a look out for our neighbors, the black bears!

No matter where you decide to go this summer get ready to play, smile, and repeat!

Written by Brenda Rivera

Spring into summer!

We want to thank you all for attending LEAP at Lincoln Park Zoo these past nine weeks and to share some of our favorite moments. We’ve had so much fun and we hope you have too!

From dressing up like zoo keepers to running around Wild Sapling Play Forest, we’ve enjoyed so many nature play adventures together! Here are a few moments we will never forget:

We hope you continue to incorporate nature play into your regular routine outside of LEAP. Spring and summer are some of the best times to get outside and play, play, play! Dig in the dirt, climb a tree, listen for birds and don’t forget to get a little messy :)

We may not have LEAP during the summer, but that’s no reason not to visit the zoo! Check out some of the awesome programs happening at LPZ this summer that are the perfect cure for your LEAP blues:

DSC_0374- MK Lucarelli- 6.28.18.JPG

Play Days at the Farm

Tuesdays and Saturdays, 10am-noon

Join our Play Assistants for hands-on nature play activities at the Farm-in-the-Zoo! From sorting pinecones to digging in smooth seeds, 1-5 year olds and their caregivers can explore the sights, smells and textures that nature has to offer in a free, open-ended experience. Take in a tall tale at story time, get messy at the process art station, and sift and scoop at the sensory bin. Click here to learn more.

On Saturdays you can also find us at Wild Sapling Play Forest located at Pritzker Family Children’s Zoo for some extra outdoor nature play fun!


International Mud Day Celebration

Saturday, June 29, 10am-12pm

Meet us at Wild Sapling Play Forest for a muddy celebration! We think every kid deserves a chance to play in the mud. Come prepared to get dirty and to have lots of fun in the process! We’ll have supplies to dig in the dirt, make muddy handprints and jump in puddles. Don’t forget a change of clothes for the ride home!


And don’t forget to think ahead to fall!

Fall LEAP Thurs- Scales Wk 1 036.JPG


Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays beginning Saturday, September 14

We hope to see you in Pritzker Family Children’s Zoo and the Regenstein Small Mammal Reptile House! Have a 4-year-old? Join us for Thursday classes! Click here to learn more and register.