A father and daughter explore the Nature PlaySpace

Celebrate the importance of outdoor play in the lives and education of children in the NC Museum of Natural Sciences' Nature PlaySpace, designed especially for families with young children!

On September 28, 2013, Prairie Ridge Ecostation unveiled the beginnings of the Nature PlaySpace as part of our Take A Child Outside Week celebration. Made possible in part by a grant from PNC’s Grow Up Great, the PlaySpace provides families with a place to enjoy the natural world, a perfect backdrop for children first learning how to care for our natural resources. Families can explore the otter slide, groundhog tunnel, woodland hut, mini-prairie maze, and areas for art, digging, and water play. Children can climb over logs and boulders, roll in the grass, make mud pies, observe nature, and dig for fossils.

There are two entrance arbors into the PlaySpace. One is on the paved pathway that leads to the amphitheater. The other is located just down the hill from our Outdoor Classroom. Bathrooms with a changing station are available in the Outdoor Classroom and picnic tables are available just outside the PlaySpace. Nature PlaySpace hours are the same as for Prairie Ridge. Directions to Prairie Ridge Ecostation.

Nature Stories

When you’re looking for an outing that enlightens the minds of young children, open their eyes to the wonderful world of nature and join us for Nature Stories, a family-friendly program open to all every Thursday from 10:30 to 11:30am. This fun and free storytime takes place in our outdoor amphitheater, surrounded by nature, where children can engage in interactive stories and hands-on experiences. No reservations required — just arrive dressed for outdoor play! Many parents bring a picnic or bag lunch so that they can take in the sights at Prairie Ridge or explore the Nature PlaySpace after the program.

Nature Stories program listing

Nature PlaySpace Programs & Events

The Museum offers workshops for parents, families, and educators in the Nature PlaySpace. Our goal is to partner with parents and educators of young children to reveal how science is part of our daily lives by using everyday encounters as opportunities to excite, teach, and encourage a connection to the natural world. From finding bugs on the windowsill to observing birds or changing weather conditions in the backyard, these workshops aim to help families feel comfortable using the outdoors as a place to learn and play by providing a better understanding of how to safely interact with the natural world.

To check out the upcoming workshops and events featuring the Nature PlaySpace at the Prairie Ridge Public Programs page.

Bringing a Group to the PlaySpace?

We ask that you notify the Prairie Ridge staff ahead of time if you plan to bring groups of 10 or more to visit the Nature PlaySpace or other parts of Prairie Ridge. Contact Cathy Fergen at cathy.fergen@naturalsciences.org or 919.707.8878 for more information or to notify us of your visit.

Help Wanted!

Our Nature PlaySpace is a work in progress, and new features will be added as funds and volunteers become available. If you are interested in providing funding for, or volunteering in, this unique space, please contact earlychildhood@naturalsciences.org or 919.707.8737.