Nature Based Play in Chicagoland

Unplug. Live a simple life. Get back to nature.

All of these messages are wonderful, but let’s get real. It is HARD to fight the electronics battle when kids are involved. I even have a social media addiction that I have been trying so hard to kick. So if you are like us and trying to go screen free as much as possible this summer, you need to get outside and head to these amazing spots for nature based play.

What makes these nature inspired spots so impressive? The opportunities for open ended play, creativity, and good old fashioned fun. Here are 5 spots for nature based play in Chicagoland that you just can’t miss.


Bison’s Bluff Park, Schaumburg

Perfect for kids of any age, Bison’s Bluff is an innovative and eco friendly park made from mostly natural materials. Kids can climb ropes courses, explore tunnels and slides, engage in water and sand play, as well as create music on the playground. There is absolutely something for everyone…but make sure to pack an extra set of clothes because your play can get a bit messy.


Bemis Woods South, Western Springs

A tree top adventure company runs an obstacle course nestled among the forest preserve. Obstacles include zip lines, swings, rope courses and more! If you are looking for a similar course for wee ones, head to the Morton Arboretum Children’s Garden.


Hamill Family Play Zoo, Brookfield

Even though the animals who live at the zoo are the stars of the show, don’t pass by all of the opportunities for nature based play in the outdoor area of the Hamill Family Play Zoo. There are ample logs and branches, as well as some other colorful materials such as buckets and tarps so that you little ones can make their own unique and one of a kind creations.


River Trails Nature Center, Northbrook

After exploring the play space and observing the animals both inside and outside the nature center, head over to the play yard to set up obstacle courses using fallen logs, tree branches, and other natural materials. Just watch out for splinters!


Waterfall Glen Forest Preserve, Lemont

A short hour drive from the city, this hidden gem is a great place to see waterfalls up close and personally without making the huge trip to Starved Rock. Hike 1-2 miles to see some absolutely gorgeous water falls, all while observing local plants and animals.


Looking to make more of a life change for your entire family? Then check out these screen free activities, including a nature scavenger hunt activity and visiting these free nature centers!

Watch out for the bugs!
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  1. Jennifer Van Huss says

    Keeping kids busy all summer can be a challenge. It is posts like this that really help inspire outings to entertain and teach them new things!! Great post!

  2. Jenny says

    A lot of things to do in Chicago for the kids! Love seeing different things in different cities since I don’t travel too often.

  3. Cacinda says

    I love this post, adventure and getting kids away from technology! I love the summer time and even as an adult I try and put the phone down and just experience it all!

  4. Michelle Cantu says

    I love this! I have three boys and nature based play is right up our alley. We use our zoo a lot to keep the kids active. I love your ideas.

  5. TIm B says

    These all look like great places to visit. Nice to see some creative play options that encourage kids to get outside and have fun outdoors

  6. sara says

    These are such great spots of visit this summer in Chicago. I would love to find similar places in my neighborhood.

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