Inspired play fosters a sense of connection with wildlife and the natural world.
Colorful, child-made insect art project adorn the 125-foot Bug Walk. Along the walkway, young guests discover and marvel at insects and other invertebrates by digging in dirt and peering under logs. Children search for native butterflies and other insects that are attracted to the exhibit’s pond, bog gardens, and other plantings. They might climb on a huge bug sculpture or choose to become bugs themselves with specially designed costumes.

The ever-changing Family Gardens encourages guests to work as gardeners--planting seeds, watering, transplanting seedlings, and composting. Seasonally, they build scarecrows, carve pumpkins, and decorate planters. Adjacent to the Family Gardens is The Woods, where children scamper around and explore an intimate natural area on a scale comfortable for them.

Two outdoor adventure play areas--Animal Homes Adventure Play for ages 5-10 and the Earth Play Garden for younger guests--provide a variety of tools and natural materials such as branches, mud, leaves, bamboo, and straw to create imaginative scenarios around the lives of animals. Children can even build their own versions of animals’ homes. A special gallery in The Earth Play Garden displays child-made mud sculptures.

In Pet Play, children interact with domestic rabbits and guinea pigs in an intimate setting. For children, the opportunity to touch an animal or have one scurry past their toes is a powerful experience that will stay with them for a long time. It also affords Brookfield Zoo staff an opportunity to share how to respectfully interact with an animal.

Other areas include the Play Stream, where children float twigs downstream, and the Demonstration Lawn for viewing animal presentations and learning how to make backyards child- and animal-friendly.