Saturday, October 10, 2015

Fontenelle Forest _ Bellevue, NE

Thursday I started going Stir Crazy - ever feel that way? Tuesday/Wednesday I had a lighter version of one of my migraines thanks to not getting good sleep on Sunday/Monday - it started with the over sensitivity to sound on Tuesday and left me feeling limp and irritable. By Thursday though it was over - so after being more or less housebound for 2 days and sleeping 14 hours on Wednesday night and waking up feeling more myself on Thursday we were ready to go do something - ANYTHING.

I thought about taking the girls to the Zoo but to be honest I've never really liked going to the zoo. Usually we just go to the Acquarium and the Lied Jungle. Now that Gigi is mobile and I have her walk 99% of the time (actually we haven't had the stroller in the car for a couple months) or in a cart if we go shopping I'm sure the zoo will be much more enjoyable since she will want to be up close and personal with ALL the exhibits. I'll let you know....

At the last minute I decided to hit Fontenelle Forest. Fontenelle Forest is located in Bellevue, Nebraska about 15 minutes from my house via I80 & Hwy 75. It's one of Nebraska's oldest conservation organizations and one of the largest private nature centers in the nation. It also owns Neale Woods and encompasses about 2000 acres of forest, prairie & wetlands along the Missouri River which is part of the Loess Hills. Ok, enough history. You can read more about that here.

If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder.... he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement, and mystery of the world we live in. ~ Rachel Carson

Fun & Educational for kids....
Fontenelle Forest is a wonderful playground for kids & their parents. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday & Thursday they have a program in the morning for preschoolers called Mudpies. Mudpies is a toddler & preschooler focused art, storytime & social time designed to bring kids closer to nature by playing with nature. They paint with flowers, fingerpaint, do playdo, play with blocks, puppets, watch the birds in the birdhouse, go for walks on the boardwalk, do sensory play, etc... Gigi is finally getting old enough I can take her & hopefully I can find a day it isn't so crowded so we can enjoy ourselves. Fridays they are open to daycares and preschools but since I only have 1-2 kiddos we'll go one of the other days. During the summer they have camps for older kids who can also volunteer and during the school year there are mini camps of just a few hours for the little kiddos.

You can also walk over 26 miles of trails and the handicapped & families with strollers are welcome and provided with a beautiful boardwalk to make it easily accessible to everyone! Gianna was initially afraid of the boardwalk but once she started running it was hard to get her to stop. She loved looking over the rails and seeing the birds & "quirrels" as they ran or flew around. 

Scary wobbly treehouse
Our focus as we walked was to find Acorn Alley where they have put in a natural playground for the kids to explore and play. The only toys to be found are sticks and of course the group of homeschool kids there decided they made fantastic guns. The girls basically blew them off though and played around them. Both girls fell in love with the Zylophone - they have 2 of them set up and they run the entire scale from higher to lower notes. There is also a neat natural pond that Gianna promptly walked into the water to explore and a cute little bird hopped around drinking. 

From there you can walk a bit further and Tom's Treehouse comes up. The girls were a little afraid of the back portion of it. This section wobbles as you walk up the stairs and I'm not sure if that is intentional or not (and I forgot to mention something to the staff) but once Gianna got over being scared of the wobbliness she went up it several times. Then she came across the bridge that went between both sections of the treehouse & got scared all over again. 

I think if the "Wild Boys" hadn't been there we might have stayed a little longer. We went over lunch time and Maddie wasn't starting to build a real attitude so we ended up needing to leave. Next time I will make sure we go to Mudpies first. I think both girls would of really enjoyed that and then eat a little lunch around 11, play for a bit and then head home for an earlier naptime. Even though I made sure Gigi had about an hour nap in the AM she could of benefited from a longer one so she would cry the whole way home...

Invest in a membership card....
Membership with Fontenelle Forest is much more reasonable than the Zoo and the Children's Museum and as the girls get older it will be the one that I keep yearly. At $35 for an individual (Me) I can get in even when they are closed to walk the trails and I can bring friends for 1/2 price anytime ($3.50/adult or $2.50/child over 2) and at $55 per family I can bring 2 adults & 2 children & I've already asked and since I have such a small daycare they said I could do the family membership so we can take advantage of the classes such as Mudpies and the outdoor nature playground. Families with older kiddos can take advantage of Canoeing trips, lying out and looking at the stars, exploring with a guide and so much more! To me that is worth it!

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