On April 22, Earth Day, my kids and I headed to the Portland Children’s Museum for the grand opening of their new nature-based play space, Outdoor Adventure. At more than an acre, the new permanent exhibit invites Portland’s youngest citizens to be “wild in the city” through a wide variety of outdoor activities. The museum hopes playing here will help to create in kids a lifelong appreciation of nature, and, as their commercial for the exhibit shows, to get off the couch!
Each of the play areas encompasses natural elements for kids to be active, use their hands, and their imaginations. We were there for the cutting of the ribbon, and I watched as kids needed no introduction and very quickly figured out what to do in each of the exhibit features. There is a toddler space with sand and water play areas, trails and a ravine for exploring and scrambling upon rocks, a creek for older kids to get wet and practice controlling the water flow, a grove for exploring among trees (including one to climb on; see below), a campsite for building shelters, and a meadow for perhaps more relaxed nature play and observation. Other features of Outdoor Adventure include an overlook to view the entire exhibit from, with benches for eating, a pavilion and amphitheater for performances, camps, and birthday parties, and an indoor room which has been dubbed The Field Station, which serves as a transition space for going between Outdoor Adventure and the inside of the museum. I’ve got lots of photos to share, and I’ll give some thoughts in between.
The ribbon cutting:
Afton’s too busy playing with her sticker to look at the camera:
Toddler water play area:
As you can see below, Afton got pretty wet, and as it was a chilly day, she was cold. If planning to play in the water, I’d recommend bringing a change of clothes for little ones (I didn’t, and it took a while for her to dry off completely).
Patrick having fun with some younger kids digging in the sand:
Gorgeous nature mural on the side of the museum facing Outdoor Adventure:
When I first heard about Outdoor Adventure, the thought crossed my mind: why go to a museum in order to play outside? And, as Outdoor Adventure can only be accessed through museum admission or membership, why pay in order to play outside? Granted, we had an enormous amount of fun, and will return, but a museum is not my first go-to destination. However, while my kids and I get outside more than the average family, the Outdoor Adventure may perhaps be a first introduction to outdoor, nature-based play for some kids who might otherwise rarely play outside or visit natural areas. In that, Outdoor Adventure is an excellent place to bring young kids. Also, while I question our fear culture and over-emphasis on safety, Outdoor Adventure is closed in and safe. While Afton and I looked around, Patrick explored on his own, and I did not have to worry about where he was. Outdoor Adventure would never replace outings to Tryon Creek State Park or Tualatin Hills Nature Park for us, but it just might be that chance for connecting to nature for other kids who aren’t taken outside regularly. Like I stated before, however, we will return; we enjoyed Outdoor Adventure immensely.
Here Patrick is lamenting the height restriction on climbing this tree. It is a museum after all, and they must look out for the safety of its visitors. Patrick climbs much higher in trees in our local park (like this), and that’s my decision to let him do that. I’m not so sure I like how this is phrased, though: “You’ve climbed high enough” (at least it does not use words like no or don’t).
Great upbeat music from Boka Marimba! Perfect for high energy kids…
The indoor Field Station:
This photo was taken just after a heavy downpour. Lots of families quickly ran into the Field Station. Not Patrick!
Some very yummy treats were provided for visitors during the Grand Opening. Afton especially liked these “compost cookies”:
Thank you, Portland Children’s Museum for encouraging nature play with Outdoor Adventure, and for a fun-filled afternoon on Earth Day.
Every first Friday of the month, Target sponsors free admission to the Portland Children’s Museum from 4-8pm. Access to Outdoor Adventure is included!
Local coverage of the grand opening of Outdoor Adventure:
KGW (Patrick is in the video here, at 0:43, green shirt)
Portland Family Magazine (Afton is in two photos, here and here)
Garden Time TV