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                    Denver Zoo Nature Play programs are designed to:

                    • Nurture a child’s interest in and passion for nature
                    • Reduce barriers to nature play
                    • Encourage exploration of nature through opportunities for unstructured play and guided discovery
                    • Inspire teachers and caregivers to be active partners in children’s exploration of nature

                    What is Nature Play?

                    Nature Play is simple, and it’s something most children do without even thinking about it. Playing in nature, and playing with items from the natural world. Climbing a tree is nature play, and so is building a fort. Digging for worms is nature play, and so is rolling down a grassy hill.

                    Nature play is good for children. Research suggests that time spent in nature reduces stress for children, builds brainpower, encourages social skills and the development of empathy. Nature play is good for nature too! When we encourage children to play in nature, to explore it and enjoy it, we are encouraging the next generation of conservation stewards.

                    Nature Play with Denver Zoo

                    The Zofnass Barclay Family Nature Play trail, along the edge of Duck Lake, is a place where visitors of all ages can play, learn, connect with and ultimately care for nature.? In this space, meant to be slightly wild, children have the freedom to leave the trail, climb under bushes, find bugs, dig in the soil, and immerse themselves in the kind of refuge that only nature can provide.? Hidden markers hint at things children can touch, smell, hear and see as they explore.? Zoo educators play alongside children as they discover, encouraging them to observe, wonder and try.

                    The Zofnass Barclay Family Nature Play Trail is made possible through the generosity of the Zofnass Barclay Family Foundation.

                    Open for family play:

                    • Tuesday, Thursdays and Saturdays 10:30am to 12:30pm
                    • Subject to change due to weather conditions
                    • Days and hours vary seasonally, check back for updates



                    (add-on cost to your Zoo admission)


                    45-min programs exploring nature!


                    Fridays at 9:30 am, 10:45 am, 1:30 pm, 2:45 pm and 4:00pm
                    Saturdays at 1:30 pm, 2:45 pm and 4:00 pm


                    Up to 8 kids and 4 adults.? Perfect for a few families to enjoy!?

                    NATURE PLAY Private Programs

                    Escape into nature with an exclusive learning experience on the Zofnass Barclay Family Nature Play trail.

                    Nature play, playing in nature and with items from the natural world, is proven to have powerful benefits for both bodies and brains—not just for kids, but for adults, too!? An oasis in downtown Denver, the Zofnass Barclay Family Nature Play Trail is just what the doctor ordered.

                    Available for small group programs, this is the perfect opportunity to reconnect with nature and your most favorite people, in a safe and private setting.? Spy for wildlife on Duck Lake and wander the tree-covered trail.? Get your hands dirty while digging and climbing with a Denver Zoo Educator.? Meet one of our animal ambassadors, get outdoors, relax and recharge - in this private program that’s sure to rejuvenate your family’s sense of wonder.

                    Nature Play in your community

                    Nature is all around us!? Learning Experiences staff can help schools, community centers and families connect with nature, in their own neighborhood.


                    20 Nature Play Ideas

                    We’re ALL ready a bit of good news these days, so here it is: one of the healthiest things you can do for your family right now is to simply GO OUTSIDE. In addition to being one of the few remaining CDC-approved activities that involve fresh air, nature play has been proven to have powerful benefits for both bodies and brains—not just for kids, but for parents, too!

                    Nurturing Scientists

                    Through Nature Play

                    Nurturing Scientists Through Nature Play is a preschool partnership program that engages students, teachers and families in nature exploration and nature play – at their schools, at the Zoo, and in their communities.

                    Nurturing Scientists supports the development of age-appropriate science skills in preschool students through nature play and exploration. Caregiver and teacher workshops empower parents and teachers to be active partners in their children’s learning.

                    In recognition of the program’s success, the Association of Zoos & Aquariums awarded the program its Significant Achievement Award in Education in 2018, and in 2019 Nurturing Scientists received a multi-year grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services in order to deepen and expand the program’s emphasis on engaging with local families in nature.