Nature Play: So Kids can be Kids

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Kids can explore the tot-sized flatboat and log cabin at Behringer-Crawford Museum.

Cole ran up the gangplank, turned to smile, and opened the door of the flatboat. He entered the boat, tugged on its ropes, and climbed onto the bench in its covered quarters. Then, he ran off the boat, and did it all again. Not yet 2 years old, Cole didn’t absorb the historical significance of the flatboat’s role in settling our region, but he had fun.

The flatboat is just one part of NaturePlay@BCM, an innovative, nature-oriented play space that opened in June just behind the Behringer-Crawford Museum (BCM) in Devou Park. This new Covington, Kentucky, attraction is open dawn to dusk, and provides free parking and free admission. Rebekah Gensler, president of the Devou Good Project, which coordinated with BCM on NaturePlay@BCM, explains the aim of the new development: “Children have lots of structured play and educational time, and NaturePlay@BCM is intended to be a space for letting kids be kids — running, jumping, climbing, swinging, using their imaginations, having quiet moments to look and observe, read a book, dig in the dirt.”

We had very few quiet moments at NaturePlay@BCM, but we enjoyed the active play it offered. Fully enclosed, handicapped-accessible, and stroller friendly, the paved pathways easily accommodated the somewhat bulky double-stroller that Cole shares with his little brother Henry. Of course, Cole was out of the stroller for most of our adventure, playing in the one-room log cabins, peeking through their windows, and running through a garden tunnel where he stopped to admire the flowers. When he needed a rest and a snack, we had no trouble finding benches beneath shady trees, and he especially liked the kid-sized table and chairs that appeared to be shaped from logs.

Climbing on the chairs, ladders, and rocks kept Cole busy and happy. There’s even a replica trilobite, an extinct fossil arthropod, that kids can climb. However, Cole seemed too little to zip on the cruise-line swing, and sadly, the ladder for the slide had caution tape wrapped around it, just one of the signs that NaturePlay@BCM is still new and building. Signs around the park ask visitors to respect the “young plants” and various taped-off garden boxes and pits promised more exciting developments. In the future, visitors will find a “Kentucky cave” crawling space, a changeable pioneer garden with native fruits, vegetables and herbs, and SAPS (Science and Art Packs). In the fall, parents and caregivers will be able to check out these packs, which will include cards to help identify insects and plants, magnifiers, binoculars, journals, pencils, activity sheets and other such items.

The SAPS will be available, for a fee, at the front desk of the Behringer-Crawford Museum, another great place to visit. A street car bursts through the entrance, and the transportation theme continues throughout the four floors. On the first floor, Cole loved pushing the buttons to bring Cincinnati and Covington landmarks to life in the glass-enclosed trains display. Upstairs he had more fun with cars, train, boats and bridges as we relaxed in a convertible at a drive-in and watched a film loop from the 1950s, detailing rotary phones, atomic cars of the future, and family meals prepared by Mom and Sister. Upstairs a model of the Roebling Bridge looms above a steamboat with buttons that play a calliope and steamboat whistles. And of course, there’s a gallery featuring the museum’s original exhibits, including its iconic stuffed bear and two-headed calf.

Behringer-Crawford Museum
1600 Montague Road, Covington (in Devou Park)
859-491-4003 | bcmuseum.org

Admission: $9 adults, $8 seniors and $5 ages 3 – 17

Barbara David, mother of five and an award-winning columnist for Cincinnati Family Magazine, enjoys travel, writing, and restoring her century-old, west-side home.

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