Nature Cat: Backyard & Beyond at Kohl Children’s Museum

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Nature Cat, the award-winning PBS series, has a new exhibit at the Kohl Children’s Museum in Glenview. This immersive exhibit, Nature Cat: Backyard & Beyond, encourages children to have an adventure and learn about nature, starting in their own backyard. Each area of the exhibit teaches children to explore nature using all five of their senses. Head to the Kohl Children’s Museum to see the PBS series, Nature Cat, come to life!

Nature Cat: Backyard & Beyond

WTTW, Spiffy Pictures, and the Kohl Children’s Museum have teamed up to create a hands-on learning exhibit based on the PBS award-winning series, Nature Cat. Nature Cat: Backyard & Beyond will be opening July 30, 2019 and running through January 26, 2020, when it begins its world-wide tour. Each area of the exhibit creates an opportunity for your child to explore their natural world. The exhibit is geared toward ages 2-10, but my one year old found plenty to explore. Let me take you on a tour of the Nature Cat exhibit!

Nature Cat Backyard

The Backyard area is home to Hal’s Dog House, an interactive dog house where kids learn how to stay safe during storms, press buttons to create thunder, and measure the time between lighting flashes. The dog house has a mesmerizing lava lamp the baby just loved. The Backyard also includes hand-on planting in recycled bottles of flowers and vegetables.

The Marsh

Hop aboard the raft, put on your life vest, and come explore the marsh! Look through the telescope or the binoculars to see what nature has to offer. Make sure to help Marvin and Squeeks sort the trash and recycling you find to help reduce pollution. The recycling sort gave us a great conversation about where all the trash goes. My kids’ favorite part of the exhibit was rock climbing to slide down the river. As Nature Cat says, “Tally Ho”!

Nature Cat Cave

Kids put on their safely helmets, turn on their lights and head into the cave to help find Hal’s frisbee. In the cave you will find critters, glow worms, and bats overhead. The glow worms twinkle in the dark cave. You will follow the flow of the river below the Earth’s surface.

The Forest

In the forest, you will find a hollowed-out tree truck to climb inside. You can help the squirrels order the pinecones inside the tree. You will discover which animals live inside rotted logs, as you climb through. This area shows how many creatures call nature their home. The fake grass, bugs, and storyboard walls create an inviting space that looks just like the Nature Cat show!

More Fun at Home

If your kids love Nature Cat, check out the PBS website to learn more about DIY ways to explore and use nature through crafts, games, and videos. The exhibit mirrors what you see on the show and games you can play on the website. It is a great resource to use when explaining to your children what they are going to see at the exhibit or reinforcing the discovery skills they learned while there.

About Kohl Children’s Museum

My family usually sticks closer to the western suburbs when planning adventures to go on. The Kohl Children’s Museum is worth the drive! I’m already planning when we can go back. The museum has so many exhibits that appeal to all children’s ages. There are baby play spaces spread throughout the museum for little ones to crawl around, play with age appropriate toys, and look in the mirror while the bigger kids play. As a nursing mom, I found there were plenty of quiet places to choose from. There were family bathrooms, as well small sinks for little kids to reach easier. The staff were interactive with the kids and very attentive.

My kids loved the Whole Foods Market where they shopped, checked out, and ordered food from the counter. Kids pick out their own carts to push around while they shop. They even have check out lanes with money to complete the experience. I was proud Mom when Madison said she was, “perimeter shopping”!

My son, age 3, loved the City on the Move and Cooperation Station exhibits. He loved moving the crane and opening the digger arm. We had fun pushing around a wheel barrow and bicycling to fill a moving sculpture with air. We also played with cars in the “Spot Hero” garage. He immediately found a giant train table and could have played with the train cars all day long!

My eldest daughter, 5, gravitated toward the Baby Nursery and Pet Vet. She carried around babies, giving them check-ups and rocking them to sleep. In the pet vet, she gave physical exams to all the stuffed animals in her lab coat and stethoscope.

My youngest daughter, 1, made music in the Ravinia Festival of Music. She was grooving to the beats other kids were creating and enjoyed beating on the drums and stroking the guitar herself. Right before we left (mom strategy) we went into the Water Works exhibit. My kids could play in the water all day. They explored water pressure, redirection of flow, and my youngest loved the rhythmic fountain. I always save the water areas for last so we don’t have to walk around the exhibit wet and, just in case, we had a change of clothes in the car.

Planning Your Trip

Kohl Children’s Museum
2100 Patriot Boulevard
Glenview, IL 60026
(847) 832-6600

Monday 9:30 am – 1:00 pm
Tuesday – Saturday 9:30 am – 5:00 pm
Sunday 12:00 pm – 5:00 pm
Member Only Hours: Monday – Saturday 9:00 am – 9:30 am

Adults and Children $13
Grandparents and Seniors (55+) $12
Infants under 12 months Free
Members Free

Interested in more indoor activities for kids, check here for more ideas!

Another Review of Kohl Children’s Museum

We have visited Kohl Children’s Museum numerous times and always love it there. In 2014, Louisa wrote a museum overview from the perspective of a mom with a toddler. Read her full account below.

Even though we spend the majority of our time west of the city, on occasion we venture beyond our side of Chicagoland for something really great. And Kohl Children’s Museum in the northern suburb of Glenview has been on our toddler-to-do list for awhile.

Our two-year-old started her adventure in the Whole Foods Market exhibit, which opened in October, and is basically the world’s best child-sized grocery store (OK, I don’t  know if it’s literally the best in the world, but it’s the best one I’ve ever seen). Emme loved pushing her cart, picking out fruits and veggies, and going through the checkout line like mommy and daddy.

From Whole Foods Market, we moved on to the Baby Nursery, where Emme played pediatrician. She rocked her baby, weighed him, and checked his vitals. Between the Whole Foods Market and nursery exhibits, our daughter could have easily played for an hour or more, but in the interest of journalism, we pressed on.

Next, we headed to Water Works, a fun, interactive water exhibit (and what toddler doesn’t love a fun, interactive water exhibit), and finally, we checked out the Ravinia Festival Music Makers exhibit. The music exhibit was a hit—Emme banged on a drum, plucked a bass string, and danced in the video room where she could see her movements make patterns on a screen.

As we made our way through Kohl Children’s Museum, I noticed that if you have a baby, there are plenty of accommodations to make your visit enjoyable. First, there are several spots where moms can comfortably nurse a baby. In addition (and I found particularly exciting), several exhibits have a baby area, where your little one can do some tummy time, coo at herself in a mirror, and play with age-appropriate toys without being in the way of the bigger kids, making this museum a great option for parents of two (or more).

We ended our visit in the Daniel F. and Ada L. Rice Art Studio, where we heard a special reading of the book Brush Strokes for Little Folks, a book by Jeff and Lindsey Whitehead, which honors the life of their son, Charlie Whitehead. Charlie lived with Cerebral Palsy, and the book features his artwork. From now until December 30, you can see a series of Charlie’s original paintings at the museum.

The Verdict

What I love most about children’s museums is watching my daughter become engrossed in an exhibit and seeing her face light up when she learns something new. And Kohl Children’s Museum doesn’t disappoint. Yet, what I really appreciated about this museum is that it is manageable—there aren’t multiple floors or exhibits jam-packed into every available inch of space. Its spaciousness also makes it very stroller friendly, but if you want to ditch your stroller, there’s plenty of parking (and room for your other belongings) in the coat room at the entrance of the museum.

Kohl Children’s Museum is located at 2100 Patriot Boulevard in Glenview. General admission for adults and children over 12 months is $11; children under 12 months are free. Check out their website for more information about events, hours, membership, and lunch and snack options at the museum’s Cosi Cafe.

Interested in learning more about other local children’s museums? Check out our guide to Chicagoland Children’s Museums with exhibit information and age recommendations.

Past Exhibits

Build It is returning to Kohl Children’s Museum of Greater Chicago on February 12, 2019. This popular exhibit includes a larger than life collection of building blocks that allow children to explore their creativity while learning about architecture, science, and storytelling and will be at the museum through June 30, 2019.

Your kids will be able to discover, stack, bridge, enclose, make patterns, name and symbolize using blocks, which are the seven stages of block play. Block play teaches several important mathematical concepts, including measurement, numeral awareness, part-to-whole relationships and social concepts such as sharing and collaboration.

The different blocks included in the exhibit include classic Duplo interlocking plastic blocks, Haba architectural wooden blocks and Imagination Playground large foam building blocks. Fat Brain Toys will also supply a large collection of blocks, including Dado Planks, Hexactly blocks, Edushape plastic bristle blocks and Twigs for two-dimensional patterning.

Throughout the exhibit, children will have the opportunity to explore and learn at several different stations in the exhibit including:

It’s All Looking Up!: Examine building on vertical and horizontal planes. Your kids can use blocks to fill in outlines and blueprint graphics of famous Chicago buildings on the walls, build on vertical Duplo and Imagination playground walls, build with magnet blocks on metal walls and build with Velcro-style blocks on carpet walls.

Build It, Test It, Shake It: Build and test the strength of their structures by using weights to see if they can withstand a downward force. In addition, children can also create structures on a shaky “earthquake” platform to test side-to-side stability.

Shadow Boxing: Use light tables in their structures to investigate shadows and see how light affects translucent Magnatiles.

Free for All: Several zones will be set up with surfaces at varied heights and props such as toy animals, people, fabric, cars, balls, faux plants and trees, where children can use their creativity to develop imaginative worlds, storylines, and dramatic play, while focusing on STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Design, Math) concepts.

The “Build It!” exhibit was developed through the generous sponsorship of Wintrust, with additional support from Fat Brain Toys.

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