Nature Play Yard

Maplewood's Nature Play Yard is Open!

Open during daylight hours, seven days a week.

Where Is It?

The Nature Play Yard is located adjacent to the parking lot.

What Is It?

A nature area devoted to kids! Trees, bridges, boulders, stepping-stones, and logs enclose safe havens where kids can roam while actively exploring nature. The yard is available for walk-in visitors, including families and groups.

We ask groups of 15 or more to call 651-249-2170 to reserve a time to visit if coming during visitor center open hours (Tuesday through Saturday, 8:30 am to 4:30 pm). Download the Nature Play Yard Brochure (PDF) for more information.

Kids Reconnect with Nature

At Maplewood Nature Center's Nature Play Yard, kids explore nature with their senses. Wee ones love the small arch bridge while others climb the rock and follow the leader on the stone amphitheater.

Unlike most playgrounds, the nature play yard has trees, bushes, logs, wildflowers, and tall grasses with all sorts of holes, nooks, and crannies to search for small critters. The immense trunk of Minnesota's former State Champion Northern Pin Oak dominates this naturalized area with native plant gardens and habitat for many creatures small and large. The rain gardens and butterfly gardens nearby are also good places to seek caterpillars and butterflies in season. Winter offers the best opportunities to see tracks and other good signs of rabbits, deer, and squirrels.

Play Yard Features

  • Branches for fort building
  • Discovery Trail starting at the small arch bridge and leading behind the Visitor center where it connects with the main trail system
  • Kids' climbing rock, natural stumps, rocks, and logs
  • Mail box with chalk for drawing on the sidewalk
  • Native plantings and flowers to explore, touch, and smell through the seasons
  • Picnic tables, benches, an old-fashioned glider and stone amphitheater provide seating for all ages
  • Sand pit for digging (request sand toys from Visitor Center)
  • Shrub tunnel

Benefits of Nature Play

In a world where children spend most of their time indoors, it makes sense that unstructured nature play would be good for kids. Research shows that playing outdoors in nature benefits children in many ways:

  • Increased muscle mass
  • Reduced stress
  • Reduction in symptoms of Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

In other words, nature play outdoors makes kids feel better.

Nature Play Yard Partners

  • Countless service groups help maintain the gardens and plantings, including Century College, local schools, and Jr. Volunteers.
  • The ongoing support of The Friends of Maplewood Nature has resulted in several play yard enhancements, including the climbing rock and the glider.
  • Several girl scouts have earned their Silver and Gold Awards by creating nature play stations and planting trees.