Peggy Notebaert’s ‘Backyard Adventures’ keeps the outdoor fun going

Think urban kids don’t have ecology and entomology worth exploring? Peggy Notebaert’s newest exhibit, Backyard Adventures, will change all that this season. (After all, what better time to re-engage with and cultivate an interest in nature than during the darker, chillier and “sure we can stay inside” months?)

Designed for children of all ages — from crawlers on up — Backyard Adventures offers 17 interactive activities that’ll be exciting for the whole family. Complete with taxidermied animals from the museum’s permanent collection, the exhibit shows kids the kinds of creatures residing year ‘round in their Chicago backyard and, as they learn through play, gives them a mix of multimedia experiences and more hands-on fun than you can shake a stick at. 

My 3-year-old’s picks (in no particular order since, quite literally, he repeated them over and over again in no particular order): Riding a large bee and “collecting” nectar, pretending to build in a real backyard workshop and attempting the winding Garden Golf Course. (Bonus for the latter game? The ball return involved a fascinating Plinko-esque collection, inspiring hordes of children to beg for more cleaning-up. Simply inspired. 

First among my absolute favorites was the tactile joy of the topography table, which featured the ability to shift new, soft land masses using composite materials and lights. A spin with the automated jump rope was also a must-do (to the delight/confusion of those around me), and I probably could’ve built with the roof tiles in a cozy corner all morning — regardless of what spot my preschooler had moved onto. 

Unlike Chicago’s cooler season, Backyard Adventures is only sticking around until early January, so make sure to dig out, do a fly-by — and see what all the buzz is about for yourselves. 

If you go:

Runs through Jan. 7, 2018

Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum

2430 N. Cannon Drive, Chicago

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