Run – don’t walk! – to the new exhibit at the Roger Williams Park Zoo! I went there earlier this month with my two kids and we all loved it.
Hasbro’s Our Big Backyard opened in early June. It’s not your typical zoo exhibit, in that there are no animals. Except if you count the scores of little humans acting just like little humans are supposed to act. It’s a nature play and exploration area that appeals to families of all kinds of ages and abilities.
When we first got there, we walked right into the first of the three major areas of the exhibit, Our Backyard. This outdoor play space can keep your kids busy for hours. My 7-year old, Sierra, immediately made her way to the stage, checked out the puppets and costumes, and put on a spontaneous performance (which is what she does pretty much all day long). My 4-year old, Devin, floated things down a stream, arranged hoses and tubes on a fence, and sprayed an unsuspecting mom and child with a sprinkle of water. This caused quite the laughing fit among the group and a chance for Devin to show them how he made that happen. Sierra joined him over at the sprinklers and they both got soaked (bring your bathing suits if you must, but it was a hot day and they were dry before long). Next, we moved onto the building area which features ropes, fabric, clips, and more and began to build a fort.
After spending more than an hour in that first area, we made our way into the CVS Caremark All Kids Can Treehouse. This is a really neat “sensory-exploration” area. Sierra loved making different colored translucent leaves spin around and Devin loved making woodpecker noises and playing with the rainsticks.
Last, we went into Our House, the indoor activity space and checked out the Nature Swap. This is a really cool room full of special items from nature that the kids can not only look at and touch, but actually take some items home with them! Here’s what you have to do: register right there and then (it takes a few minutes), bring in items that you’ve collected when out exploring nature (within limits), and trade them in for cool stuff!
When we left Our Big Backyard, my kids suddenly remembered that we were at the zoo and we spent another couple of hours watching animals and eating lunch. What a day!!
(By the way, in 2014, a New England Animals exhibit area will open just “beyond the fence” of Our Big Backyard. It will include wild turkeys, river otters, great horned owls, lynx, and porcupine.)
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