The NAT’s New Play Space Opens TOMORROW!


Adventures begin in The Backyard, a brand-new exhibition at the San Diego Natural History Museum (The Nat) that allows little learners to expand their horizons, learn, and explore the natural world through play. This new space provides children 0-5 years old with a safe, dedicated place to play while parents, grandparents, and caregivers participate or sit, relax, and observe. The exhibition is included with paid admission and free for members! All children must be accompanied by an adult to gain access to the space.

Inspired by a quintessential San Diego backyard patio, The Backyard is packed with experiences that encourage curiosity about the natural world including, a shade tree, live animals, a potting bench, a giant ladybug, stepping stones, a pergola-covered reading nook, a garden bed for infant tummy time, an urban nature soundscape, and more. Caregivers can enjoy wifi and a coffee or snack from the nearby Flying Squirrel cafe, and new moms can comfortably breastfeed/bottle-feed on the benches provided inside the play space.

The Backyard contains interactive activities and objects that instill a sense of wonder and curiosity about the natural world. Exhibition highlights include:

  • A garden bed (soft space for ages 0-2)
    • Modeled after a self-contained garden area, this enclosed, soft space is separated from areas designed for older toddlers and preschoolers. It is an ideal area for infants to work on tummy time, rolling over, and sitting up. Within this space, older infants have an area to practice crawling, walking, and grasping different textures.
  • An old oak tree (ages 2-5)
    • Children will embody imaginative, dramatic, and realistic play as they dress like familiar backyard animals, crawl on a giant ladybug, and gallivant around an old oak tree. Self-directed play can take many forms as kids build block structures, color mix on the light table, and uncover hidden sounds and live animals in the garden wall.
  • A potting shed (ages 2-5)
    • Adults can relax and recharge on plush bench seating with free WiFi and a charging station while kids exercise fine motor skills and build imaginations as they create and pot flowers, read books, solve puzzles, and sort shapes.


“The Backyard provides flexible experiences that allow adults to choose their level of engagement,” Beth Redmond-Jones, vice president of engagement and education at The Nat, remarked. “They can either be actively engaged in their child’s play or sit back and relax with a latté from The Flying Squirrel Café. And for parents or caregivers who have been gallivanting in Balboa Park all day, or simply just need a breather, that can be a beautiful thing.”

On August 1Backyard Wilderness 3D film opens in the Museum’s 300-seat giant-screen theater and it is AWESOME!! The film follows a young girl named Katie who lives next to the woods but is blind to the real-life spectacle around her until she discovers the intricate secrets that nature has hidden so close to her front door. The story was is so much fun to follow, and the cinematography is stunning! My 4-year old LOVED it, and no matter how much we encouraged a “whisper voice”, he couldn’t help himself from yelling out loud in excitement throughout the movie.

The Nat was an enjoyable experience for our whole family. We spent over 4 hours exploring, and probably only stopped to see half of the artifacts and exhibits. In fact, we loved it so much, that we’ll be getting an annual membership so that we can enjoy it all year! Playdates anyone?!

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