Saturday, January 2, 2010

Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum

Thursday morning, we bundled up Mia and headed over to the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum. I’ve been wanting to take Mia there for quite some time, especially for some of the hands-on animal activities that take place a few times each month for kids her age. Unfortunately this was not a day when this activity was taking place, but I thought that she would enjoy the Judy Istock Butterfly Haven. Mia loves butterflies – at least in theory, based on her strong appreciation for pictures of butterflies, a stuffed butterfly she has, and her favorite butterfly barrette. I had been warned by another mom with a daughter the same age that it might be a bit intimidating for her, since the butterflies can fly right up into the little ones’ faces.

At any rate, when we arrived at the Museum we asked for suggestions on activities that a 20 month old might enjoy. We were told to try out the children’s Discovery Center on the first floor, which is a gated nature-themed play area for the younger kids.

So we headed into the museum, and the first thing we noticed – hard to miss – was an enormous, life-size (seemed larger than that to me) stuffed polar bear, taxidermy-style. Pretty impressive, and the other kids seemed enthralled, but Mia was terrified! I had her put her head down and make her look the other way as we walked past. The stuffed cougar, however, got her all excited and roaring.

The first room we went into had an exhibit with water tables that kids could interact with, but this was too advanced for Mia. We walked through the rest of the room, and came across lots of animals – the kinds you’d find out there in the wilds of Illinois. Again, much of this was lost on Mia, who would be much more entertained seeing farm animals as opposed to tarantulas, frogs and snakes. For older kids, it’s awesome. With no prompting or prior teaching from me, Mia uttered “Ew!” at the spindly bugs, animal skeletons and other not-so-cute items on display. It’s innate!

The play room for kids was much more Mia’s speed, with non-intimidating animals like a beaver atop a dam, a climbing area with a slide, and nooks and crannies for playing and exploring.

After spending some time in the play room we headed up to the Butterfly haven. It’s a very hot, humid room filled with greenery and flowers, and butterflies everywhere you look. There were not so many butterflies that you felt like you’d step on them or get hit in the face, yet there were enough that they seemed to be in every spot you looked. They were really beautiful, and while many were flying around, many were sitting still so you could get an incredible close up view. Mia was fascinated, and while she seemed a bit apprehensive, she was not scared at all. She moved her hands open and close, imitating the sitting butterflies’ wings opening and closing. She didn’t want to leave, and when we finally exited she kept saying “more more.”

We spent some time walking around the upstairs exhibits, and while activities were geared toward older kids, she enjoyed a few random things that we stumbled upon, like a giant turtle and a penguin’s iceberg that she could walk underneath.

Overall, I was really impressed with the museum and Mia had a great time, but I think she’ll get much more out of it when she’s a bit older. I still would like to take her back for some of the hands-on animal activities, so that she can get another chance to see the butterflies.

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