What to know before you go

We are so excited for LEAP sessions to start next week, and we hope you are, too! Please read on to find out what to expect at LEAP, and what we're expecting of you and/or the caregiver attending with your child.

Let your child lead the way.

Most of the class will consist of free play among 6-8 different stations. Some kids might hang out at the same station for half the class filling and emptying buckets of beans, while others may run around and continuously sample each station. Watch what your child is drawn to, and then join in! 


Check out the theme for each class.

Each week we’ll investigate plants and animals and the habitats they live in. Across the nine weeks, we will explore water, sand and dirt, beginning simply and adding materials each time we revisit that theme. Every week LEAPers will have the opportunity to engage with the new and the familiar, gaining confidence and comfort along the way. As we play, the leaves will change colors and animals will get ready for hibernation. We have new adventures ahead!

We will end class each week by reading a related story, having a cool animal experience, or going on a nature walk. An animal experience can mean watching some fun enrichment be given out to an animal that lives in the building or seeing a morning feeding in action. The themes are listed on the blog, so check them out to see what else we’ll be exploring this season!

New at the Zoo

Whether you’re new to LEAP or returning to us after a fun summer you may notice some changes that occurred at the zoo this year.

  • We said goodbye and good luck to our lion pride as we prepare for a heavy renovation project on the Kovler Lion House. They have a new home at the Rolling Hills Zoo – check out this video of Sahar enjoying some enrichment on World Lion Day!

  • We said hello to a handful of new arrivals, including four red wolf pups, two snowy owl chicks, two gorilla babies, and a rhino calf! We hope you get to spot one of our new arrivals during your time at the zoo!

  • We committed to an “animal-first” approach to ensure our animals have choice, control, the comfort of their own habitat and benefits from all our programs. The zoo is dedicated to not only animal care but animal welfare as well - this can be reflected in the modifications to programs you might see during your visit. These programs include Feed the Cows, Groom the Goats, Feed the Chickens and Penguin Encounters. You can read more about these decisions here!

Dress for a mess. 

Playing with natural materials sometimes means getting dirty, be it digging in the dirt, painting with sand, or creating with clay.  If you and your child are dressed for a bit of paint and dirt, then you can dig right into the activities and not worry about the clothes.

Dress for the weather.

What would a nature play program be if it didn’t include a little time IN nature? With the Children’s Zoo all to ourselves for the first five weeks, we hope to soak up the last bit of warm weather by spending time outside. We try to set as many stations up outside as we can when the weather allows. New this year, we’ll also have activities set up outside the Small Mammal-Reptile House! Occasionally, we will end class with an outdoor nature walk, rain or shine.

Enjoy this special time with your child.

LEAP is centered on nature play- playing in and around nature as well as with natural materials- so it's a great opportunity to take a break from technology. We’d like everyone to unplug for the hour that you’re at LEAP each week and ask that you keep phone use to a minimum during class. Explore the fun materials and the animals surrounding you, and share in your child's sense of wonder, seeing the world through their eyes.

You’ll see us taking pictures each week on our program camera. We take photos so you don’t have to take as many and can focus on playing with your child. We use these photos on our LEAP blog, so check out the blog each week to see if your child is in the spotlight! We also share all the photos we take throughout the series in November, once class is finished.


Join the LEAP dialogue!

Feel free to chat with staff and fellow participants at LEAP, and follow the blog to learn more about nature and child-directed play, share your ideas and feedback, and get inspired to extend your outdoor and nature play experiences beyond the class. Nothing makes us happier than hearing about how you incorporate what we’ve done at LEAP together into your life at home! 


Throughout the series, we will share photos, discuss nature play and its benefits, give you some activity how-tos, and hopefully inspire you to extend your nature play experiences beyond LEAP class! 


See you soon!

The Lincoln Park Zoo LEAP Team