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Visit the natural playground

Fri, Oct 25th, 2013
Posted in All The Great Outdoors

Paisley Christian, age 3, plays with the hand water pump and moveable log sluice in the Natural Playground located at the Houston Nature Center in Houston, Minn. Parents are Brooke Christian and Chris Cody of Caledonia, Minn. Photo by Barb Jeffers

In the day and age of television, computers, and video games there is a Natural Playground a short drive away that will stir your child’s imagination in a new way. The Houston Nature Center, in Houston, Minn., has long been a favorite for families to get out of the house and closer to nature. With the addition of the Natural Playground, the ability for children to play, learn, and enjoy the outdoors has been combined in a cool way.

A path leads around and behind the Houston Nature Center where visitors feel a change in their attitude as different plants, trees, and shrubbery start to envelope the area. The view of the beautiful scenery and bluffs seem to make a person slow down and take it all in.

A sign marks the beginning of the one-acre Natural Playground where many different and educational areas await. Play elements listed in the Natural Playground brochure include:

•Enormous sand play area with buried fossils for kids to find and take home (one per child, please)

•Hand water pump and moveable log sluice

•Several four foot boulders to climb on

•10 foot tall hill for rolling and running in the summer and sliding in the winter

•Stone tunnel with large, hidden fossils inside

•Two small stone caves with large fossils inside

•Embankment slide (it’s fast!)

•Boulder climbing wall

•Wooden climbing wall(handholds to be installed when the grass on the hill is established)

•Straw bales for building forts

Three sets of pedestal pipes for making sound

•Two sets of listening tubes for listening to sounds

•Two wrap around tree benches for adults to sit in the shade

•Two stump circles for hopping from stump to stump or for sitting, one with a fire ring in the middle

•Labyrinth with circuits just wide enough to accommodate a standard wheelchair

•Four foot tall concrete mosaic owl and three giant eggs in a nest for kids to climb into

•LOTS of native trees for shade

•Flying owl entrance sign surrounded by stones engraved with the names of all the donors who made the playground possible. You’ll find three more donor inscriptions on the four foot boulders in the playground

•Interpretive signs for the trees, rocks, lumber, fossils, and play elements (fall 2013)

•Living willow tunnel (spring 2014)

•Interactive sundial where YOUR shadow tells the time of day (2014)

There are many interesting things for children to explore which they may have never seen before which is always exciting for kids. Playing at the Natural Playground on a recent warm Autumn day was Paisley Christian, age 3, who was visiting the playground with her parents, Brooke Christian and Chris Cody, who live in Caledonia, Minn.

Paisley had a huge smile on her face while playing in the Natural Playground running from one element to another while her parents tried to keep up. Paisley especially enjoyed the slide and the hand water pump and log sluice.

According to the brochure the Natural Playground is “a great place for families, schools, and organizations to get outside and play” just as the Houston Nature Center has always been a great place for families to visit now with the added bonus of the playground.

Major funding for the Natural Playground was provided by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, the Statewide Health Improvement Program, the Catherine Manley Gaylord Foundation, and the Southeastern Minnesota Arts Council, according to the information given by the Houston Nature Center. The brochure also says that an additional 65 donors and three dozen volunteers took this dream and made it a reality.

The Natural Playground is definitely a unique place for children and adults to experience nature at its finest any time of year. It is also good for children to get outside and play no matter what the time of year. The Natural Playground brochure states that “research has shown that children who play regularly in nature are mentally and physically healthier than those who don’t” and then adds “but who cares about the research…it’s just more fun!”, which is surely the case.

The Houston Nature Center and the Natural Playground are located at 215 W. Plum Street in Houston. The phone number is (507) 896-4668. The facebook page is For additional photos of the Natural Playground visit the Fillmore County Journal’s facebook page at

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