I am grateful for the time I get this summer to spend with my five-year-old daughter and my friend’s four-year-old son. The two have grown up together and lovingly refer to each other as “Brother” and “Sister.” They do behave a lot like siblings when spending any volume of time together; they truly adore each other though the laughter can easily turn to bickering and arguments – especially when not properly fed, hydrated and entertained. At the start of the summer, the plan was some weeks I would have the two together three days during the week. I knew this would require some thrifty creativity.
In the first week we had already gone to some of our favorite and free spots; Matt Ross Community Center (for their indoor play gym), Kaleidoscope (the art activity center at Hallmark), and Crown Center (The Adventures of Mr. Potato Head Exhibit). I knew the air conditioned play would not last and we would have to be finding some unique outdoor activities too. After the first few days of making it up as I went along, I stumbled upon an idea which would help guide our summer experiences. I found Kansas City’s Passport to Adventure created by The Interpretive Site Coalition; “a not-for-profit organization comprised of historical sites, museums, nature centers and like agencies in the Kansas City region.”
I picked up two passports and have each child bring their own on each adventure we attend now. The passport contains nineteen different locations to visit around the city, information about each location including address, hours of operation and admission fees (though most are free). At each location there is a question for the kids to answer about what they see or learn on the visit and they provide their answer to an employee to earn a stamp.
While the kids are excited about earning stamps and playing, I am interested in checking out places in Kansas City I have never visited and avoiding fussing between the two by keeping our adventures fresh and new each day.
Our first adventure was to Burr Oak Woods, or as Jones called it, “Broke.” This park contains 1,071 acres of forest and prairie, with hiking trails, picnic areas and a discovery nature center. Upon entering the park I encouraged the kids to look for wildlife and to my surprise, the four year old voice in the back seat quickly responded with “There’s a deer.” I put the car in reverse and we sat to watch a deer in the prairie for a few minutes before continuing on our path. We started with a short hike on the trail so I packed chemical free bug spray and bottles of water to stay comfortable in the heat. Because of the tree coverage and small breeze the June temperature didn’t feel as bad as I dreaded. We listened to the sounds of nature, climbed on logs and held hands until their little legs were tired and then we went to explore the nature center.
Inside the nature center there was a 3,000 gallon aquarium with Missouri fish, smaller tanks for snakes, frogs and turtles and a long wall of windows for wildlife viewing out back. Along with hummingbirds, squirrels and finches there also happened to be a gang of wild turkeys wondering through. The kids turned every knob, flipped every switch and pulled every lever to explore all of what the exhibit offered. They had the children’s play area all to themselves where they put on a puppet show from a hole in a log they could crawl into. The kids had a blast sliding down the slide and using their imaginations to learn and grow.
Burr Oak Woods is definitely worth the trip to Blue Springs to enjoy the hiking and the nature center. You can also pick up a passport there to begin your own summer adventures.