New 'PlaySpace' opens in Chicago's Lincoln park neighborhood

A new place for kids to make noise, splash in water and explore will open in Lincoln Park this weekend.

It's the new Chicago Academy of Sciences/Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum’s Hawver and Lacy Families Nature’s PlaySpace.

"It’s a nice environment for the little ones, and they learn a lot with everything that's in here. I love it," said Norma Estrada as she watched over an almost three-year-old child during a soft opening of the space Thursday.

Kids up to age eight can visit six different Illinois habitats, with 25 hands-on activities in a 3,050-square-foot indoor play area.

"A clean safe place in Chicago in winter is huge. And as a parent I was recently here with my seven-year-old. I can tell you with a lot of confidence that the beaver lodge, the slide, and the water table are going to be a huge hit," said Erin Amico, Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum President and CEO.


"Kids love it. Look around for like five seconds, and they love it, you can tell," said Josh Barget, who was helping to watch a two-year-old boy playing in a kid size Lake Michigan.

Children can learn about chickens nesting, noises from frogs, and hang out in a beaver lodge. The play space aims to teach kids about nature and loving the nature spaces in our area.

"We have wetlands, prairies, dunes, rivers, and lakes all represented. These are things that children can find their own backyard and that can spark a sense of wonder and appreciation for the nature that's right around them," said Amico.

This $4 million project is the biggest investment for the nature museum in two decades.

"It was critically important to make this sort of investment particularly as we're pivoting back from the pandemic, to give children a place to connect with nature. Research shows the importance of having the connectivity with the nature around us and social, emotional and community engagement that comes from I have a deeper understanding of the nature of your region," said Amico.

The play space officially opens Saturday morning, giving kids a new way to enjoy nature, without getting their shoes dirty.