“Let your kids play in nature”, they say. Being outside builds creativity and confidence, those are #FACTS, there is research to support this. If you have ever seen your child discover a butterfly or jump in a puddle, you know this is true. There is only one issue. WE LIVE IN THE CITY!!!! Our family lives in a condo in Bronzeville, and like so many other families we don’t have a backyard. I still want ObieQ to spend time outside in nature. So what should a city Mama like myself do?
This is where Lincoln Park Zoo comes in! The team at Lincoln Park Zoo reached out to see if I would be interested in trying their L.E.A.P. Class. I didn’t even know the zoo had classes for toddlers. After I heard the news, I did my research:
- L.E.A.P. Is an acronym for Learn Explore and Play
- Child-led play and activities
- Behind the scenes access to the zoo
- The class is specifically designed for 2-3 year olds
From the Lincoln Park Zoo website:
“Join us for a morning of investigating and exploring the natural world through play. Children guide the way as they choose whether to dig in the dirt, manipulate loose parts, create a collaborative work of art, or settle in with a story underneath a canopy of colorful fabric. Learn and grow together as you play alongside a wondrous world of animals in Pritzker Family Children’s Zoo and Regenstein Small Mammal-Reptile House. Wrap up your morning with the group by reading a story or taking a nature walk.”
This sounded amazing, but I was hesitant. ObieQ is such a wild card. Will the “child led” class provide enough structure for him? This Mama has a heavy case of cabin fever from the longest winter ever. I decided to take my chances and try the class.
Oh am I glad I did! *Spoiler alert: I am not sure who had more fun…ObieQ or ME!*
We chose the Saturday morning class and took Lake Shore Drive right to the zoo. It was kinda surreal being in the zoo before it officially opens. We walked in and headed to the Regenstein African Journey. Right away we were greeted by a member of the zoo staff. She had a name tag for ObieQ and explained to me exactly how this worked. There were five activities set up. The little ones were free to roam from station to station. There is staff there if you need it, but enjoy yourself and there will be a storytime at the end to bring everyone together.
The open play was perfect for ObieQ’s busy mind. He started building towers with a new friend but quickly moved on to the sensory bin. Here he chatted up a team member and told ALL of our business. “My Daddy is gone on a plane. I have a table like this at school, but I don’t go everyday…” She was patient and listened and met him at his level. Asking him questions that got his gears turning. While ObieQ was playing there I was freaking out like a fan girl at a K-Pop concert. Except it was me and a hippo. I was obsessed! He was looking right at me. Let me take yet another picture. Is anyone else this excited?!?!
That set the tone for the class. ObieQ moved freely from station to station. We both were so excited to be THIS close to all of the animals. We met new friends. That’s right, when I was able to chat it up with other parents. This is important to me since my husband travels so much, I am often at these classes alone. The hour flew by. We finished the class by gathering around for storytime. You KNOW ObieQ loves a good storytime. He hopped right up (unsolicited) to serve as an assistant.
When I left the class I was thrilled. I instantly started sending pictures to family and friends. Some even thought we were on vacation. Nope, just a city family spending the morning with hippos and giraffes!
Registration for the next session just opened. Click here for the link and sign up your little one. They have weekday and weekend sessions, you choose which one works for you. This class has my full recommendation. So much so that I asked for a Mama Fresh Hook Up for you! Use the code MAMAFRESH2019 for your own personal discount.