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Rita (Fredenhagen) and John Harvard Early Learning Playscape

Playscape Landing Page.jpg
Splash, climb, touch, explore, trade, play, pretend and slide into adventures at the new Rita (Fredenhagen) and John Harvard Early Learning Playscape at Naper Settlement. It’s where history comes to play!

Nestled in a replica of a wooden fort, the Harvard Early Learning Playscape is designed for children ages 2 through 7 to explore the outdoors in a setting created just for them. The playscape playground and splash pad provide opportunities for early childhood physical, imaginative and social development while promoting increased connections to the natural environment, local history and community engagement.

The early childhood field emphasizes the value of nature to support a young child’s curiosity, discovery and sense of wonder, thereby promoting their growth in all developmental domains.

Playscape Conestoga WagonHours
The Playscape will be open during regular Summer Season hours from April 1 - October 31
10 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday, 1-4 p.m. Sunday, Closed on Mondays

Please note - The water features in the Splash Pad are turned on between the Friday before Memorial Day in May and Oct. 15 and will be turned off during the open season when temperatures dip below 70 degrees.

Entrance into the playscape area is included in your museum admission
$12/adult; $10/senior (62+); $8/youth (4-12)
Under 4 years, Naperville residents (with proof of residency) and Members are free

Highlights of the playscape will include:

Splash Pad

  • Splash in the water in Naperville's only splash pad.
  • Touch the pump to activate the water for the water trough.
  • Activate the water cannon and the ground misters by simply pressing a button.
Playscape SlidePlayground
  • Climb up in the blockhouse and slide down the twisting tube slide.
  • Look through the telescope and periscope.
  • Relay a secret message to a friend through talking tubes.
Trading Post
  • Trade with friends and role play as the owner and/or customer of a trading post.
Conestoga Wagon
  • New access allows for opportunities to investigate aboard the vehicle known as the “moving van of the 1800s.”
  • Take a photo to commemorate your visit.
  • Play “Pack Your Wagon” and learn what the pioneers brought with them on their journey to the Illinois frontier.
Animal Tracks
  • See a variety of animal tracks and “Walk with the Animals.”
  • Follow the tracks and guess which animal belongs to each track.
Sensory Prairie Garden
  • Experience a variety of plants the early pioneers might have seen on the prairie or planted in their gardens.
Activity Cart
  • Fly the Illinois flag and see our state’s flower, tree, bird and animal.
  • The four seasons of Illinois will be explored and will include plants, animals, weather and people.

Little Free Library
Naper Settlement is proud to host one of very few Little Free Libraries in Naperville. Our Little Free Library, decorated with the hands of Camp Naper campers, offers a way for our guests to connect with other community members and share favorite books of all kinds - books that teach, intrigue and engage. The instructions are simple:

  • Take a book: If you see something you would like to read, take it. Check inside to see if there is a note from whoever gave it.
  • Share a book: Return it to any Little Free Library or pass it on to a friend. If you can't bear to part with it, keep it and bring back a different book to share.
  • Return a book: Do your part and keep Little Free Libraries stocked with high-quality books - share your favorite titles. Be a friend of libraries big and small. Pay it forward!

Playscape Splash padHelpful Information

Bring a snack or a picnic lunch to enjoy in the shaded picnic area.    

  • No food is available on site, cold beverages are available from a vending machine nearby.
  • Bring a towel to dry off the youngsters after they play in the water and before you explore other exhibits and historic buildings at the museum.
  • Admission to the Playscape is included in your admission (Naperville residents and museum members receive free admission) and is open during Naper Settlement regular hours. See Hours & Admissions
  • Parking is free in the Naper Settlement parking lot on the southwest corner of Webster Street and Porter Avenue and in the City of Naperville’s Municipal Lot (weekends only) on the northwest corner of Webster Street and Aurora Avenue.   

Playscape Programs

Playscape Pioneers Day Camp
A special new camp for children ages 4-7 held in the Rita (Fredenhagen) and John Harvard Early Learning Playscape! Four sessions of hands-on learning and storytime will be offered in both May and September 2015. Sign up for all four sessions or just one!

Playscape PhotosDates: Wednesdays in May and September
May (6, 13, 20, & 27) and September (9, 16, 23, & 30)
Time: 9-10:30 a.m.
Cost: $75/camper for all four sessions or $22/camper/day
Registration required - Call

Session Details: 
May 6 & September 9: Building a New Life 
May 13 & September 16: Frontier Fun 
May 20 & September 23: Frontier Wildlife 
May 27 & September 30: Daily life as a Pioneer
Playscape Readers
Date: Wednesdays in June, July, August and September
Time: 11–11:15 a.m. (Ages: 2–5) and 1–1:15 pm (Ages: 5–7)
Cost: Free with paid admission, no registration required.

Find a seat on the quilt for you and your child and enjoy an engaging story time featuring changing seasonal themes.
Playscape picnicPioneer Picnics
Date: Wednesdays in June, July, August and September
Time: 11:30 a.m.–1 p.m.
Cost: Free with paid admission, no registration required. 

Each Wednesday, pack a picnic lunch and join other parents and children to play with pioneer toys and games at the early learning Harvard Playscape. Also stop by the 4 Seasons of Illinois cart to participate in a family learning activity.
Third Thursday Thinkers
Every third Thursday of the month (June through September), drop by Naper Settlement's Rita (Fredenhagen) and John Harvard Early Learning Playscape to experience history in unexpected ways. Take your young thinkers on a museum adventure, use your senses and discover what makes Illinois unique. Little fingers will experiment with painting, gluing, sticking and creating, while developing fine motor skills.

Date: June 17, July 15, August 19, September 16
Time: 10-10:30 a.m. (Ages: 2-5) and 2-2:30 p.m. (Ages: 5-7)
Cost: Free with paid admission, no registration required.
Playscape PhotosSchedule: 
June 18 - Animal Tracking 
Discover the animals of Illinois by identifying tracks and signs.

July 16 - Growing Up Wild 
Come explore the sensory garden and see firsthand the growth of plants with a take-home lima
bean experiment

August 20 - Pioneer Life 
Learn about the pioneer experience in Illinois, play traditional games, trade for goods and make a 
wooden bead bracelet.

September 17 - Winter Readiness 
Celebrate harvest times and the changing foliage! Work an apple press, try some apple cider and create a 
masterpiece with fall shapes and colors.

See more information on other children's programs offered at Naper Settlement.

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