The Magic of the PlayScape

A young blonde girl and a younger blonde  boy peek out from a wooden structure. The girl is wearing a green coat and the boy is wearing a blue coat.

by Abbie Rinehart, Member

The Cincinnati Nature PlayScape is a magical place to inspire wonder and curiosity in children and relaxation in their parents.

We first discovered the PlayScape just after it opened 10 years ago. My children were only toddlers at the time, but I would take them to museums and activities around Cincinnati. I would often find myself saying “Look but don’t touch.” and “No!” more often than I liked. When we discovered the PlayScape, it was life changing!  I could say “Yes, you can walk on that fallen tree trunk!” and “Go ahead and see what is under that rock.” 

A blonde boy in a red shirt and a blonde girl in a pink shirt play at the mud pie station in the Mud Zone at the Nature PlayScape

We would often pack a picnic and spend the entire day in the PlayScape. There are many activities to keep children of all ages engaged. Our first stop was the map at the beginning of the trail. The children loved the challenge of trying to figure out how to “read” the map to determine which way to go.

At the Mud Zone, the children would pretend to cook and I enjoyed many “strawberry pies” baked in the “ovens” there. After eating our fill, we would head over to the Sand Pit. I would often bring a few toys and the children would play with their cars and dig with their shovels.

A young blonde girl and a young blonde boy stand on rocks in the stream of the Nature PlayScape

A highlight of the day would be splashing in the stream. The children would climb on the rocks and walk across the log that traversed the stream, over and over again, practicing their balance and coordination skills. We would drop leaves in the current at the top and hop from stone to stone following it as it floated down to the bottom. Sometimes they would just jump up and down creating as large a splash as they could. 

A young blonde boy in a long sleeved navy top and red shorts runs toward a log fort inside the wooded area of the Nature PlayScape.

As the afternoon stretched on, we would seek the shade of the trees toward the back of the PlayScape. We would walk along the paths, through tunnels made from shrubs, and across a tree trunk laid out like a balance beam to find the Fort Building zone. We would enjoy the coolness of the area while pretending to build ourselves a home. The children would pick up the logs and practice placing them this way or that, trying to determine which method built the sturdiest structure.

A young blonde girl and a young blonde boy sit on a bench at the Nature Center

As the children played, I often found myself taking long, deep breaths. The kind of breath a stressed-out mom rarely gets to breathe. I enjoyed the calmness of the woods, the singing of the birds, the gentleness of the breeze as it rustled through the leaves and the water gurgling down the stream over and around the rocks. It was restorative. It was revitalizing. It was therapy.

The Nature PlayScape is a true gem. It has something for children of all ages and is a wonderful place for children and adults alike. I love how I can feel relaxed there, as if I'm on vacation, but it is right in our backyard!