It's no secret that the Morton Arboretum is a great place for
kids to run and explore. But what can they do when all those trees
are off-limits to little feet just itching to climb?
That's where Tree House Tales comes in. The new exhibition is
made up of six kid-friendly, educational "tree houses," although
they're probably not quite what you think. Each tree house is built
around the concept of a namesake tree, which stands
I took my 2-year-old nephew to explore the new area and we had a
blast. Although he's too young to appreciate the educational
aspects (signs present facts about the different trees, and the
Silver Maple Tree House focuses on how trees make food), he loved
the chance to duck through doorways, climb ladders and fly down a
Imaginative play abounds, with the opportunity to play in a
settlers' cabin, an old-fashioned clubhouse (with a sign that
proclaims "No Grown Ups Allowed") and a barn-red doghouse, not to
mention my nephew's favorites, the Empress Tree Castle and White
Pine Ship. He passed the time pretending to be a farmer, driving a
car, and using the ship's spyglass.
Fortunately for active kids, the houses are spaced far enough
apart to allow for freedom to run. And although the exhibit is
aimed at kids 2-10, the open space means it easily could appeal to
those outside that age range.
The area isn't particularly shady, but the houses offer some
refuge from the sun. And since the exhibition is a half-mile from
the Visitor Center, the nearby port-a-potty was a wise choice. But
be sure to bring along sunscreen and some water, especially on hot
days. Or take a few minutes to swing by the Children's Garden for a
quick splash in the stream.
For families looking to make a day of it and get the most bang
for their buck, Tree House Tales would make a great way to split up
the hours. With picnic tables in close proximity to the houses, an
outdoor lunch is another great option, so grown-ups can sit and eat
while little ones work off their energy.
On Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays throughout the summer, the
educational aspect will be amped up, with volunteers on hand to
share details about the trees. The arboretum's "Family Twilight
Adventures" also will be themed around the tree houses, as will
several other summer programs.
Morton plans to expand the exhibition next summer with
additional houses. But it already feels complete - and a great
place for kids to climb, run and make believe all summer long.
Elizabeth Diffin is the senior editor at Chicago Parent. She lives in Wheaton.
See more of Elizabeth's stories here.
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